The Fundamentals of SEO: Keyword Research

Are you starting out in a marketing role and have been asked to do some “keyword research”? The term seems like a trivial concoction of words thrown together, but is it as simple as it sounds? Keyword research, being one of the most valuable and return-yielding exercises performed in search marketing certainly isn’t simple, but it can be easy.

Keyword research involves identifying the most popular queries typed into search engines, in order to optimise your website to rank for these particular words or phrases. But keyword research obtains greater value than just a good rank in the SERP. It can also provide you with detailed consumer insights without the cost of marketing research, hence why it is one of the most lucrative practices in SEO. Keyword research can respond to changing market conditions, predict shifts in demand and present opportunities for product development and innovative content creation, merely by gleaning the thoughts of your consumer. 

In this series of Guest Blog Posts written by Digital Marketing Agency Sparro, we first take a look at how they go about Keyword Research for SEO.  Enjoy!

1. Keyword Discovery

I’m sure you have keywords in mind that you want your web pages to rank for, but unfortunately, it’s not that easy. That’s why you should start with a blank canvas, and let the data show you exactly what your consumers are looking for.

Tools

At Sparro, we use a variety of tools to guide this first step in the keyword research process.

Google Suggest:

This is the cheat’s method for keyword research. Type “Electronics” into the search bar but don’t hit enter! Instead, jot down the phrases that appear in the drop-down search bar.

These terms which have been auto-suggested by Google are all real search queries which have historically been typed into Google and can give you an idea about what customers in your market are looking for.

Answer the Public:

A wonderfully free resource which provides its users with the most searched for questions in any category. Using questions for keywords is GREAT, and here’s why. Throughout 2018, the Google algorithm had many tweaks, to ensure that queries asked were answered by websites that are credible and qualified experts in that field. Google is no longer after keyword stuffing to return a query. It is looking for the most accurate answer to the user’s question. So by adding an FAQ section to your website, or tailoring your H1’s and H2’s within your content to be questions your consumers are asking (and questions that you can actually answer) then you will see an incredible increase in organic traffic to your website.

 

Google Trends:

The last tool we use is Google Trends. Google trends show very recent keywords, which have risen in popularity, and you can filter by time and location for a more targeted approach. However, be sure to observe semantic relevance, as this tool generally brings to light unexpected ideas for keywords and keyword categories. Nonetheless, as the real estate in SERP’s seems to be dwindling for organic search, the unexpected could be a honey pot for your website.

 

 

 

So now that you’ve aggregated a list of potential keywords, what’s next? It’s time to decide which terms to target by determining which keywords will add the most value to your website.

 

2. Keyword Metrics & Definitions

You can subjectively evaluate the worth of a keyword, given your current campaigns and website goals, but we prefer to take a data-driven approach, to ensure that we are producing content that speaks to both our users and our search engines.

Search Volume

Search volume indicates how many times that keyword is searched for. Search volume could be given as total search volume – the total number of times that keyword has ever been searched, or by Average Monthly Volume. This indicates on average, how many times a month that keyword is searched for, this is a better metric illustrating consistency of search for that keyword. A higher search volume, therefore, indicates a more popular keyword. So when deciding which keywords to target, the higher the search volume the better, right? Well, maybe not…

Keyword Difficulty

Keyword difficulty AKA competition indicates how easy or hard it would be for a new entrant to rank for that keyword, given the competition already targeting that keyword. For example, a keyword with 50,000 average monthly searches will most likely have many competitors bidding on or targeting that term. This isn’t to discourage you from pursuing high competition keywords, but it might take you years of persistent effort to knock off the big players.

Tools

Now to determine the real value of a keyword, consult a keyword research tool. You may want to plug your collated keywords list into a few different platforms for comparison, as they all vary depending on the clickstream data used to return keyword metrics. It is best to use one with an organic difficulty functionality tool for a quick indication, for this reason, we prefer to use Moz Keyword Explorer and Keyword Explorer by Ahrefs. Google Keyword Planner was once upon a time the holy grail of keyword research tools given one variable – it was all Google’s data! And whilst some of the insights Google Keyword Planner provides you, with an update in 2018, Google Keyword Planner no longer shows accurate search volume, so there has been a swift decline in the application of this tool. But you should test always, and experiment with multiple tools for greater depth of analysis. Check out this research article discussing the accuracy of keyword research tools for more information.

 

3. Keywords for your Consumer, not your Competitor.

Keyword research can be truly profitable, especially if you are targeting keywords which will attract users that are likely to convert. That’s why it is essential to use your good judgement and align your keyword research, with offers your website can actually make, that will genuinely solve a problem for your consumer. This is important. Do not target keywords for the sake of targeting keywords and baulking off the competition. Target keywords which are consumer-centric.

The Buyer’s Journey & Longtail Keywords

The buyer’s journey (AKA conversion funnel or path to purchase) is an age-old marketing concept, suggesting that every consumer goes through three generic stages of purchase. Awareness, Consideration and Decision. Effective keyword research is all about understanding your consumer and knowing what they are actively searching, maybe even before they do. A technique which is starting to emerge, involves clustering keywords through this lens of the Buyer’s Journey, to increase web traffic and conversions.

Now let’s talk about long tail keywords. Recall how we spoke about competition and search volume. A high search volume generally applies to highly competitive and generic keywords. These popular searches account for 25% of all web searches, and generally only contain one or two keywords. These keywords are great for big brands like Amazon, that would dominate the SERP for the generic term “Electronics” for example.

But what opportunities are out there for the little guys to win a rank? Well, that remaining 75% of web searches covers what we refer to as “the long tail of search” – a vocabulary of highly specific, relevant and low competition keywords. Herein lies success for new entrants, niches and small businesses by utilising the buyer’s journey to capture consumers at any stage of the conversion funnel. Let’s look at search queries of potential buyer looking for a Nintendo PS4:

 

Awareness “Popular types of gaming consoles”
Consideration “Nintendo PS4 reviews”
Decision “Where to buy Nintendo PS4 best price online”

 

A person searching for terms within the “Decision” category of keywords is practically giving you their money.

Now that you are a keyword research Jedi, go forth and write interesting and relevant content to intrigue both your consumer and your search engine.

Want to learn more about SEO? Our 10-week online Search Engine Marketing course is the perfect way to learn the basics or brush up on your skills for 2019. 

Sparro is an independent digital marketing agency based in Sydney. Sparro specialises in paid and organic search, programmatic marketing and multivariate testing. The agency works with a diverse client base, including Destination NSW, Webjet and Domino’s Pizza. If you enjoyed this article, you can find out more about the SEO on the Sparro website.