HomeShortlist BlogSEO TipsHow to Do SEO Keyword Research in 2023: Ultimate Guide

How to Do SEO Keyword Research in 2023: Ultimate Guide

One of the most common ways that people find answers to their most common questions online is through search engines. In fact, as much as 68% of website traffic comes from organic search. 

When a potential customer or a random internet user stumbles upon your website through a search engine, we call this organic traffic. No matter the user intent, improving your organic traffic can have a tremendous impact on your business, and many industry experts claim that organic search has the best ROI compared to other marketing channels.

So, if you want to improve your organic traffic results, how do you do this? The answer is – search engine optimization (SEO). 

SEO is the process of optimizing your website and other online content to match the factors that search engines like Google consider. It includes finding the words that your target audience uses when searching for something online and including them on your website and in other content. 

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • What keywords are and why they are so important
  • The basics of keyword research and how to do SEO keyword research successfully
  • How to optimize your content for target keywords
  • An example of SEO keyword research and implementation
  • How to use keywords throughout your marketing content

Let’s start answering all the questions about SEO keyword research in 2023.

What Are Keywords?

Keywords are words and phrases that highlight the primary focus of a webpage. They are the words people type in a search engine. According to Semrush, “any term used in a search engine, whether a single word or a long phrase, is considered a keyword.” 

When learning how to do SEO keyword research, know that placing effective keywords in webpage content is one of the main methods for ranking high in search engine results. Therefore, it’s crucial that the keywords in your type of content be relevant to what your target customer is searching for online. This way, your content stands a better chance to be discovered by users and realize its full business potential.

Why are keywords important?

Keywords play a vital role in SEO. When someone types something into a search engine (e.g. Google), they conduct what is called a “search query.” Most people don’t type full sentences into a search query but rather just a few exact keywords related to what they want to know. 

For example, rather than typing “What is a good pizza restaurant near my house?” you might type “Pizzeria near me.” Since users are relying on keywords in their searches, you want to make use of those individual keywords in your content.

As a website owner or content creator, you want your content to be the answer to someone’s search query. Whether that person is looking for more information on a product, a local service, or something else, you want your web page to offer a relevant and accurate answer. 

One of the main factors that search engines use when determining which results to display is how closely the page content matches the search query. By looking at the keyword metrics and focusing on the right lists of keywords that have greater traffic potential, you can better match the search query of users, which results in appearing higher in the search results.

How to Find the Best Keywords for SEO

The first thing to remember is that not all SEO keywords are created equal. There are several factors that go into determining the effectiveness of a keyword, such as its popularity, competition level, difficulty, monthly search volume and other factors. For more in-depth information on this topic, make sure to check out our guide on how to find the best keywords for SEO

As you’re planning out your keyword strategy, make it a goal to find the best SEO keywords for your content. This will help ensure that you create a more efficient SEO marketing strategy, as you won’t be wasting time and resources on low-quality keywords.

Where should you look for keywords?

When generating your list of keyword ideas, you need to know where to look for the best SEO keywords. Using keyword tools to do research can be of great help here, but you should also think outside of the box to find relevant keywords for your website content and other marketing material.

  • Google Autocomplete. When you start typing potential keywords in the Google search bar, the search engine will show you a list of different types of keywords based on actual searches.
  • People also ask. This snippet is another useful method Google uses to suggest questions related to your search.
  • Related searches. At the bottom of Google’s SERP, you can find this section with a list of eight popular keywords which are related to the keyword you searched for. 
  • YouTube Autocomplete. Similar to Google’s Autocomplete feature, YouTube can help you find other keyword opportunities.
  • Amazon Autocomplete. If you run an eCommerce store or you’re an affiliate marketer, you definitely shouldn’t skip Amazon because it has an autocomplete feature just like Google does. You can also check product descriptions and FAQs to find new keywords on a list of topics.
  • Yahoo and Bing. It would be a mistake to disregard these two search engines just because they’re not as popular as Google. They also suggest keywords like Google, so this can be your opportunity to pick some low-hanging fruit.
  • Facebook groups. Go to Facebook groups which are related to your business and search for the broader topics that may be of interest to your audience.
  • Wikipedia. Did you know you can use Wikipedia for keyword research? When you search for something on Wikipedia, you will find an entry for the topic. Make a list of keywords that appear in the introduction section, take a look at the Contents section, and also click on some internal links to see what that content is about. This will give you various subtopics you can cover in your keyword list.
  • Quora. If you want to find some trending questions and favorite keywords for your content, this platform is a great place to look for them. Type your keywords into the Quora search bar and go through the related questions people ask about those topics.
  • Reddit. Search for a broad topic on Reddit and then go to a specific subreddit to check for the most popular posts and question-type posts.

9 tips for finding the best keywords

Keyword research takes a great deal of effort and time, but you should never try to guess which keywords to insert in your content. These tips can make a world of difference and get you (back) on the right track when conducting keyword research.

  • Understand your audience. If you want to draw users to your website or other social media marketing channel and show them you have the solution to their problems, you should get familiar with the challenges they face.
  • Know your goals. What is the goal of your keyword research? There’s a difference between the types of keywords you would use for increasing landing page visibility and conversion rate and those you would use for building brand awareness.
  • Find important topics and create a list of them. Being an authority in your industry means knowing the topics that are related to your services or products. Then you should use those topics and keyword types to create resources that provide relevant and helpful information, thus attracting users. When you find relevant topics, create a list of them and categorize the single keywords by topics. 
  • Look for localized keywords. In case you’re running a small local business, you can search for localized keywords and phrases to target local buyers. 
  • Research your competition. This one may be obvious, but it should be mentioned nonetheless. Analyzing your competitors’ keywords is an undervalued but amazingly effective method to find keywords relevant to your industry.
  • Stay up to date with the latest trends. If you’re selling a seasonal service or product, use keywords like summertime, wintertime, Christmas, and so on.
  • Long-tail keywords are a gold mine of opportunities. These keywords are low-cost, low-competition, and more targeted.
  • What about search intent? If you want to create content that meets users’ expectations for a given keyword, you need to consider the search intent behind that keyword.

Use SEO tools for keyword research

SEO tools can help you conduct keyword research much more quickly and effectively. Here are some of the most widely used tools SEO specialists use to find keywords:

  • Ahrefs
  • SEMRush
  • Ubersuggest 
  • Moz Keyword Explorer
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Trends
  • Google Keyword Planner
  • QuestionDB
  • Keywords Everywhere
  • AnswerThePublic
  • ExplodingTopics
  • Jaaxy
  • Bing Webmaster
  • Rank Tracker

What factors should you consider when doing keyword research?

As you’re using a keyword research tool or conducting your own research, there are a few factors which you’ll want to take notice of. Below, we’ll list a few of these factors, but for more in-depth information, feel free to check out our guide on finding the best keywords for SEO that we already mentioned.

  • Search volume – how many people are entering that phrase into a search engine over a period of time, i.e. how many searches per month, week, day does that keyword have
  • Competition level/Keyword difficulty – how hard it would be for you to appear high in the search results
  • Search intent –  the type of information that the user expects to find when they click on a search result (informational, transactional, commercial, or navigational keywords)
  • Local queries – these originate from users searching for services or products in their vicinity
  • Short-tail and long-tail keywords – short-tail are generic and high-traffic keywords, while long-tail are specific and lower-traffic keywords
  • Organic CTR – the percentage of users who click on a search engine result
  • CPC – cost per click shows whether users who search for this keyword actually spend money which is important for your marketing budget

How to Optimize Your Content for Keywords

You may think that finding the right keywords is difficult, but it’s actually just half the battle when it comes to using keywords in your SEO strategy. In other words, it’s not enough to know what the best keywords are, you also have to optimize your content for those keywords

Search engines like Google scan your content to identify keywords on your page. However, they look for more than just the inclusion of those keywords. They also examine things like their frequency and location within the page.

Including your SEO keywords in your content in the best possible way is called optimizing content for keywords. Keep reading to learn about the most effective content optimization tips.

Pick one or two main keywords per page

To start optimizing your content, select one or two of your perfect keywords for each page. You don’t want to target too many keywords on an individual page, as this will reduce their overall impact. 

At the same time, you typically only want to target each of your keywords with one page. Trying to target the same primary keyword with each page only results in your pages competing against one another (also known as keyword cannibalization), rather than reaching new audiences with different main keywords on different pages.

Know the critical keyword locations

Once you know which keywords you want to target with a specific page, you can then start including those keywords in critical locations throughout that page. These are the most important areas to include SEO keywords.

Page titles

The page title is probably the most important place to include the main keyword. This is what users will see at the top of your page, along with what will appear in the search results. Search engines place a large importance on the words in your title, as this should ideally describe your content. When creating your page title, aim to include the primary keyword, while also keeping the entire title under 70 characters.

Meta descriptions

Meta descriptions are the short blurbs that appear under the page title in search results. For example, if you search “Starbucks” on Google, their meta description states “More than just great coffee. Explore the menu, sign up for Starbucks® Rewards, manage your gift card and more.” 

Google determines the meta description in one of two ways:

  • You can set the meta description yourself, which Google will then use.
  • If you don’t set a meta description, Google will use the first characters on your page.

These meta descriptions are more helpful to search engine users rather than the search engine itself, because they don’t impact where your website appears in the results. However, by including one of your keywords within the meta description, you signal to users that your page aligns with their search query. 

This can help improve the click-through rate and drive more visitors to your page. To ensure your meta description looks inviting, it’s better to write it rather than have Google generate it for you.

Headings

When writing your content, we recommend using headings to divide up the content for two reasons. First, it makes the content more visually appealing and easier to read. Viewers can follow the structure of the article with headings more easily or jump to the sections that most concern them. It also prevents your page from having a long wall of text, which can be hard to look at, especially with longer articles.

The second reason to use headings is that search engines examine them for keywords. Since a heading should describe the content below it, Google places an emphasis on them. So, make sure to include your primary keywords in some headings throughout your content, but not in all of them. 

Content

Another vital section to include your keywords is, of course, throughout the content. When examining a page, Google calculates how often you use the keyword on it. If you only use the main keyword in your titles, it’s likely that you’re not using it enough. 

Instead, you’ll want to include it a few times organically throughout your writing. While this varies depending on the length of the content, a rough estimate is three to five times for every 1,000 words.

Images and visuals

Optimizing images in your content is a step you don’t want to skip. When you optimize an image or visual for keywords, you show Google that it’s relevant to your main keywords and content topic. Even though Google is getting better at recognizing what’s in an image, you definitely don’t want to rely on that.

Moreover, content that includes visuals that are optimized for keywords tends to rank higher in search engine results. You should include keywords in an image’s title and alt text.

URLs

The final way to optimize your content for keywords is in the page’s URL. The URL is the address that appears in the web browser’s address bar and what people can type to visit that specific page. Including your primary keyword within the page’s URL is a great way to highlight the specific focus of that page. It’s especially useful for blogging, where you can have unique URLs for each post that target new SEO keywords.

For example, let’s say you just published a blog post about how to improve your productivity. Instead of creating a URL like “www.myblogwebsite.com/post-121”, you could instead go with “www.myblogwebsite.com/how-to-improve-productivity”. This includes your keyword “how to improve productivity” within the URL, showing Google and users the primary focus of your content.

Use semantically related keywords

Semantically related keywords are those that are conceptually connected with your main keyword. Including them in your content helps Google and other search engines better understand the topic of your content.

Consider keyword density

Try to find the optimal balance between including your main keyword only sparsely and overusing it. The former will result in poor content optimization, while the latter will lead to poor reader experience and potential penalties from Google.

You want to avoid keyword stuffing, which is including your keyword too many times throughout your content. Google has gotten better over the years at penalizing websites that do this. One or two mentions of your primary keyword in subheadings and three to five times per 1,000 words of content should be sufficient.

Don’t hide keywords

Hiding keywords can be done by hiding keywords behind images, using CSS to hide them off to the side, or using the same color background as for the text. This black hat tactic isn’t easily detected by search engines, but it can lead to serious penalties if a search engine does find it.

Don’t include keywords just for the sake of doing so

Finally, try not to force keywords in your content if they don’t contextually belong there. If you need to force a keyword in, this probably means that there’s a problem with content strategy or alignment.

Choosing between writing content with inadequately placed keywords just to get a higher ranking and writing content that offers a great reader experience isn’t actually a choice. When in two minds, always remember that you’re primarily writing for people, not search engine bots.

An Example of How to Use Keywords in Your SEO Strategy

To demonstrate how to do SEO keyword research and then implement them, let’s look at an example.

Karl’s Kicks is a shoe manufacturer with an online store. They’ve recently developed a line of shoes specifically made for runners and now they want to attract more runners to their website. To start the keyword research process, they first brainstorm a few keyword ideas. Their list includes keywords such as:

  • Shoes
  • Running shoes
  • Sneakers
  • Buy running shoes online

After generating this short list of seed keyword ideas, Karl’s Kicks then downloads a keyword research tool. They input each of their seed keywords in turn and let the software generate a long list of keyword suggestions. Thanks to this tool, they are able to see the total number of monthly searches for each keyword idea and the competitiveness of that keyword. For instance, entering “running shoes” returns the following results from Ahrefs:

During their research, they discover that some of the simplest search terms like “running shoes” are very competitive (according to Ahref’s Keyword Difficulty, or KD). Karl’s Kicks decides they want to target less competitive keywords in order to rank their pages sooner. They opt to target some longer-tail keywords, such as “how to find the perfect running shoes” and “best running shoes for trail running”.

Once they’ve narrowed down their keyword selections, they begin to optimize their website. They include their primary keywords on the homepage of the website, including in the page’s title and in some of the headings. After optimizing their current pages, they then proceed to create new pages based on specific keywords. They write a blog post called “10 Tips for How to Select the Best Trail Running Shoes” and optimize it for the keyword “how to select the best trail running shoes”.

Karl’s Kicks continues to create more pages over time, targeting new keywords. They also regularly conduct keyword research to discover new opportunities or to adjust their keywords based on new search trends. Finally, as their website builds up credibility over time, they decide to start targeting more competitive keywords.

How to Use Keywords Throughout Your Business

So far, we’ve discussed how to use keywords for an SEO campaign. This is one of the primary reasons that marketers conduct keyword research, but there are other uses for keywords as well. Since you’ve spent time conducting keyword research and identifying the best keywords, you may want to use them in other parts of your business besides SEO.

Social media

One common place that businesses use their preferred keywords is on their social media channels. 

  • To start, you can include your keywords in your social profile, such as in your username or profile description. 
  • After that, you can include keywords within your social media posts. On some occasions, social media posts can rank highly in search results if they match the keyword, giving you another chance to rank.
  • Finally, you can make use of hashtags on social media platforms. Hashtags are keywords (with the “#” symbol) that allow users to find all posts that use that hashtag. For example, you could share your recent blog post titled “The 10 Best Coffee Shops in Seattle” on Twitter and include the hashtag “#SeattleCoffee”. Now your post will appear in the search results either when someone clicks on that hashtag through another post or when they search for that hashtag specifically. 

External content

Some businesses have a content marketing strategy that involves posting content on other websites. For example, you might write a guest post for a blog in your niche that includes a backlink to your website and uses a relevant keyword. 

When creating this content, make sure to use your keyword in the anchor text for your links. The anchor text is what appears in the content and what you can click on to visit the URL. This process of using keywords outside of your website is called off-page SEO.

Using keywords in external content provides two benefits: 

  • First, Google examines the anchor text of links that point to your website. The more high-quality links that point to your website with related keyword phrases, the better your rank in search results. 
  • Second, people reading the external content will associate your business with the linked keywords. Even if they don’t click on the link right away, this can be very beneficial in the long run.

Online advertising campaigns

Finally, it’s very common for businesses to use keywords in online advertising campaigns. Businesses can pay to have their website appear at the top of search results or in ad spaces on relevant websites. To determine which business to display for a certain keyword, advertising platforms like Google go by which business pays the most for that keyword.

For instance, you may want your website to appear at the top of Google search results for the keyword “roofing services in Florida.” To do this, you would use Google Ads. 

However, other businesses have the same goal. Within the Google Ads platform, you’d type in the keyword you want to advertise for and see how much it costs to show that ad. The more competition there is for that keyword, the more you’ll have to pay. This is once again where you’ll likely want to find a balance between competition and search volume.

The Bottom Line: How to Do SEO Keyword Research Successfully

Conducting keyword research can be a time-consuming process, but it’s one that can pay large dividends for your business if you do it right. It may take a little trial and error to learn how to do SEO keyword research the right way and find the right set of keywords for your website, but it’s more than worth it in the long run. 

We hope that this guide was able to provide you with some useful keyword research tips. Now you’re all set to start an effective SEO campaign for your business in 2023 that will continue to bear fruit in the following years as well.

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