Many of the websites you see when you conduct an online search didn’t appear there by accident. Instead, there are marketers behind the scenes working hard to ensure their web page appears high in the search results for those exact words you typed. This means that if they can do it, so can you. It all starts with identifying the best keywords, or the words going into the search query, to target. If you want to improve your SEO optimization, below we offer some SEO keyword research advice on how to find keywords for SEO and have your website appear in those search results.
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is the process of identifying the best words or phrases related to your website that you can use as a part of your SEO or content marketing strategy. One of the key goals for any internet marketer is to improve the amount of organic traffic, or traffic from people who discover them through search engines, for their website. To do this, marketers want their web pages to appear as high in the search results as possible for words related to those pages.
SEO keyword research includes finding words or phrases that receive a significant amount of searches each month. It also includes analyzing the competition level of those keywords, as other websites are likely targeting the most popular keywords. Through the act of brainstorming and the use of SEO keyword research tools, marketers can discover the best words or phrases to target on their website.
Start by Brainstorming “Seed” Keywords
The first thing you’ll want to do is start thinking about possible “seed” keywords. Seed keywords are short, typically only one or two words, and have high monthly search traffic. Essentially, these would be the most common words related to your niche. For example, if you owned a pizza restaurant, your seed keywords might be “pizza” and “pizzeria.” Brainstorming seed keywords give you a place to start your search and make the SEO keyword research process faster.
Study your niche
A good way to think of seed keywords is by studying your niche. Think about the industry you are in, the type of customers you want to target, the products you sell, or the services you provide. Look at some of your competitors’ websites and see if you can identify their keywords. Then, after you do this research, make a list of around 10 possible seed keywords that you can use going forward.
SEO Keyword Research Tools
Once you have some seed keyword ideas, the next thing you can do is find some SEO keyword research tools. There are many tools available, some of them free, that make finding the best keywords much easier. Below are 6 SEO keyword research tools to explore:
Google Analytics is a free tool that provides a lot of valuable information about your website. Once you have Google Analytics set up, you can see what search queries lead people to your website the most often. You can then use these words as the starting point for your new content strategy. This is a good tool to use if you already have a site running, but if you don’t, it’s still a good idea to set it up now as it can assist you tremendously in the future.
Google Trends provides information about search queries over time. The purpose of Google Trends is to show which searches are currently seeing a rise in popularity and to analyze how the popularity of certain key phrases changes over time. With Google Trends, you can gather some ideas about the latest trending keywords related to your niche, then use those as your seed words or create a piece of content related to popular topics.
Moz Keyword Explorer
The Moz Keyword Explorer tool helps users perform complex SERP analyses. After creating an account with Moz, users can enter a keyword, then instantly receive a lot of data related to that keyword. This is a good tool to use when you already have an idea of what keywords you want to target and are looking for more information on how to prioritize your keywords.
Semrush is an all-in-one marketing tool. One of the awesome features of Semrush is that you can conduct a competitor analysis. You simply submit the URL of your competitor, then receive information about the keywords they target. From there, you can conduct further keyword research or make a list of keywords to track over time. Semrush is a great keyword tool for discovering popular keywords and the search terms used by your target customers.
QuestionDB is an excellent online SEO keyword research tool to help you identify long-tail keywords. To use the tool, you start by entering a single keyword or keyword phrase. QuestionDB then shows you popular or common questions people ask related to your submission. For example, if you submit “keyword tool”, QuestionDB may return possible questions like “What is the best keyword tool in 2022” or “what is the best free keyword tool for SEO.” This is a great tool for brainstorming content topic ideas, as you can see how your audience asks questions related to your niche online in their own words.
Ahref’s Keyword Generator
Finally, there’s the free Keyword Generator tool from Ahref. With their tool, you can enter a seed keyword, then receive a long list of related keywords. You’ll also get metrics for those keywords, such as the monthly search traffic, the difficulty of ranking for that keyword, which pages have lots of backlinks and parent topics. Another feature of the Ahref Keyword Generator is providing information about the top search results for each keyword, allowing you to analyze the competition level for any keywords you want to target.
How to Analyze Keywords
The next thing you need to know is how to choose keywords for SEO. Test your seed keywords in different SEO keyword research tools and learn more about them. There are three factors to consider when deciding which keywords you ultimately want to target:
The first factor to consider is search volume. Search volume is the number of people who search that keyword each month. Knowing how many people search for a specific term can help you decide which keywords to focus on. For example, if you’re considering using either “marketing tool” or “marketing software” as your primary keyword, you could see which one receives the highest searches per month. While there are other factors at play, generally speaking, the higher the search volume, the more opportunities you have for someone to discover your page.
The other important factor to consider alongside search volume is keyword difficulty. Keyword difficulty refers to the competition level of the keyword. For example, many large brands are likely targeting the keyword “marketing tool” already. When you search for that term, the first page consists of major businesses and websites, all of which have strong internet marketing efforts, including many backlinks and a history of quality content.
When analyzing keywords, you need to decide how much competition you want. Most brands, when first starting to focus on their SEO marketing, try to find a balance between high search volume and low competition. For instance, rather than targeting the most searched for query on your list of keywords, you might instead choose the keyword with the fifth-most search volume, as it has much lower competition.
Finally, consider the intent of the user when determining which keywords to use. There are likely keywords you can use related to your topics that won’t bring in high-quality traffic. For example, let’s say you run an internet marketing company that produces marketing software. While the search term “marketing services near me” may have a high monthly search volume and seem related to you, you don’t provide local services. Potential customers who find your site through that search query will probably end up leaving, as they don’t want software but to outsource their SEO tasks.
When creating your list of keywords, ask yourself why someone might type that into a search engine. Are they looking for more information or to buy something? Do they need help with a product or are they looking for a review of it? Knowing the intent of the searcher can help you decide which are relevant search terms and which you can ignore.
Identify Long-Tail Keywords
Often, some of the best keywords you can target are called “long-tail” keywords. These are search queries that contain more than a few words. An example of a long-tail term or keyword might be “marketing tool for freelance graphic designers.” This is a much more specific search than simply “marketing tool”, which means it will have a lot fewer searches per month.
However, since long-tail keywords are very specific, this means there is often less competition. Ranking for long-tail keywords often requires less time and effort. At the same time, those that use long-tail queries are looking for something very specific, so if you match their interest, you’re more likely to convert them into a customer.
As you’re generating your keyword ideas, you’ll likely find some long-tail keyword suggestions. Choose ones closely related to your content that still receive a decent amount of search traffic. You can also try creating your own long-tail keywords by adding specifics to your seed keywords.
Keyword Planning for Paid Campaigns
Up until now, we’ve discussed conducting keyword research as it pertains to getting a higher position in organic searches. However, when users conduct organic searches on sites like Google, they also see advertisements at the top of the results. If you want your website to appear here, you can run a paid advertising campaign through Google Ads.
The process of displaying your ad through Google Ads is similar to that of improving your rank in organic search. It involves conducting keyword research, picking a target keyword and then creating an ad. One of the biggest differences is that in this scenario, tougher competition means spending more money. You’ll see a metric called Cost Per Click (CPC), which is the amount you’ll spend every time someone clicks your ad. The more popular the keyword, the more you’ll have to spend for your ad to appear. If you wish to run a paid campaign, you can use the Google Keyword Planner tool to help you create an efficient campaign.
Prioritize Your SEO Keyword List
Once you’ve brainstormed ideas and used some keyword or SEO tools to help you analyze them, you can then start to prioritize your list of best keywords for SEO. At the top of your list, identify the keywords that you want to target the most. These are the keywords that best represent your website and will likely appear on your homepage.
After that, identify the keywords you want to use on your other pages. You can also use this list to help you brainstorm topics for blog posts or articles. The best practice is to have a different primary keyword for each page, blog post or article on your website. Then use your other priority keywords as secondary keywords for these pages.
Final Thoughts on Finding the Best Keywords
Every strong SEO strategy has an element of keyword research. You need to know things like the common keywords in your niche, high-volume keywords and the keyword difficulty scores of those searches. Otherwise, you could waste a lot of time targeting words that don’t receive a lot of traffic or that have too strong of competition for your new website. By spending time now conducting SEO keyword research, and by regularly analyzing the current effectiveness of your keywords over time, you can set a strong foundation for your SEO strategy.