Keyword Research | Understanding the Search Terms That You Target
Why Keyword Research is so Important
Keyword research comes before you develop any content or embark on an SEO campaign. That's because keyword research helps to determine just about everything you do going forward.
It let's you know what type of content people are searching for and what type of content you should create in order to build an audience and convert sales.
If you cut corners on keyword research you'll end up wasting a lot more time, effort and money down the road.
Keyword research is a broad term, we're going to break it down into a few key subcategories:
- Establishing your goals
- Types of keywords
- Keyword tools
- Can I monetize my keywords?
What are the Different Types of Keywords?
There are three major categories that all keywords fall into. They are the head, body and tail. Each category has a different degree of ranking difficult and average conversion rate.
Head keywords are the broad keywords that encompass all other keywords. Often times a head keyword is your niche. For example, in the hoverboard niche your head keyword would be hoverboard. Head keywords:
- Are the most difficult to rank for
- Draw the majority of traffic
- Usually aren't high converting (the search term hoverboard is likely informational)
Body keywords are often a combination of a head keyword plus another term or two. They're the middle ground of keyword categories, and are generally 2-3 words long. Body keywords:
- Are easier to rank than head keywords, but still competitive.
- Command a decent search volume
- Can convert well
You've probably heard the buzzword long tail keywords a lot. That's because tail keywords are awesome. In general, tail keywords:
- Are easy to rank for
- Have a low search volume
- Can convert very well
That doesn't mean you should only target long tail keywords. You should strive to be an expert in your niche. A niche expert will generally build enough authority to rank for body and head keywords. Targeting tail keywords that convert to sales is a great complimentary strategy.
Establishing Your Keyword Research Goals
Before you start doing any kind of keyword research, you need to think about your goals as a website/blog.
Are you selling a product/service? Do you want to build brand awareness? Are you trying to establish yourself as an expert as a field? Simply looking to drive more traffic to your website?
Make your goals into a mission statement, everything that you do going forward should align with that mission.
Now think about the types of keywords that will help you accomplish that mission. If you're selling a product, what questions do consumers have about your product? What information will they find helpful? Most importantly, what are the search terms people use right before they buy?
Spend a minute brainstorming. Write down a list of ideas. This list will be the foundation for your keyword research.
What are the Best Tools for Keyword Research?
There are a few easy to use keyword research tools that can save you time add significant value to your efforts going forward. We'll take a brief look at each of these tools and find out how to use them to do awesome keyword research with ease.
We'll start with the traditional keyword lookup tools, the likes of Google Keyword Planner. These tools are a great way to generate new keyword ideas. They also help you understand what to expect as far as traffic generated from certain search terms.
That said, there's a more human side to keyword research that all too often gets ignored. This involves getting in tough with your audience/consumers and finding out what type of information they need, questions they have and products they want.
So what if you don't have an audience or consumer base yet? We'll take a look at some tricks you can use to explore the places your potential customers/audience hang out. These places are ripe with actionable information for your keyword research.
Google Keyword Planner:
This is a time tested keyword research tool that can be extremely powerful if used correctly. You'll start by creating an account with Google Adwords (this is free to do).
Just click the green start now button in the middle of the screen.
You'll be prompted to enter some basic info like an email address and website. Once you've input that info, you'll create a Google account. This requires your name, birth date, mobile phone number and a password.
Now that you've got an account, login and click on the tools tab at the top of the screen. Scroll down to and click on keyword planner. You'll want to focus on the find new keywords and get search volume data section. This is where you'll dig up the keyword gold.
I focus on the first two categories. Let's start with search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category.
To stay consistent, we'll use the hoverboard niche again. I like to start by using the broadest keyword for my niche, then narrow it down to more specific keywords later. You can also search by entering your website's URL (if you already have one) and product category.
Scroll down the page further and there's a section that lets you customize your search.
I find the keyword filters helpful for a couple of reasons. You can eliminate keywords that don't return enough volume for monthly searches, these keywords might not be worth the time. You can also filter for keywords above a certain suggested bid. The suggested bid is determined by the market's current price for a keyword.
Here's what I got doing a very simple search for hoverboard under your product or service without any customization.
The average monthly searches is a large range,which isn't super helpful. Search volumes tend to fluctuate anyways, so having an exact number isn't ideal either. What's important is the floor to the searches is a high number (1 million), along with the ceiling (10 million).
High competition is also good, people don't tend to compete as much over keywords that aren't profitable.
Here's a portion of the list of related keywords that was returned in the keyword ideas section.
I really like a few of these keywords. They're very relevant to my niche and audience, a few of them also look like buy action keywords (convert to sales easily). You can also find some useful ideas from the ad group ideas section.
Similar to Google Keyword Planner, you enter a phrase and it returns a list of related keywords. For the hoverboard search, SERPs gave me a list of 862 keywords compared to GKP's 699 results.
KWFinder is a keyword research tool packs a number of useful features. When you enter a keyword you're given a standard list of recommended keywords.
You are also shown a graph that displays monthly searches for that keyword over a 12 month time frame. Google Keyword Planner used to have a similar display feature that is no longer easily accessible.
KWFinder also evaluates the keyword difficulty level and rank of your competitors (listed by their page rank for that keyword) based on Page Authority, Domain Authority, MozRank, MozTrust, links and social. It's a comprehensive evaluation that can help you assess the difficulty of any SEO work moving forward.
All of these cool features sound too good to be true, right? Well, they are:
- KW Finder limits you to 3 keyword searches a day
- It only returns 25 keyword results for a given search
- Premium plans must be purchased for full features
I wouldn't recommend paying for this service. You can find all of this information on your own, for free. We'll take a look at how to do this later in the competition chapter. That said, it's fun to play around with and get easy access to a few keyword searches each day.
Social media can give you some great insight into how people's interests correlate with your niche. Twitter is one of my favorite social media platforms to search for keywords.
You can learn about what's trending related to your niche in real time. Other keyword tools reflect backward on keyword data. Twitter tells you what is popular now, it can put you ahead of a trend.
I'll run a search with my main keyword and variations of it every few weeks to get fresh ideas. To sort through some clutter, I remove links from my search by adding "-filter:links" before my keyword. My search looks for the hoverboard niche looks like this:
Forums are one of my favorite tools for keyword research. They're another tool that can give you real insights into the questions/needs of your audience.
This type of keyword research can give you a phenomenal insight into your target market. It will definitely put you ahead of any competition that uses purely traditional keyword research tools.
Forums are generally structured in a way that can give you keyword ideas in the first few seconds of looking at the home page. Here's a look at the homepage of a forum that's entirely dedicated to hoverboards.
The five major topics each represent a potential keyword/group of keywords. I like to treat each topic like a baited fishing line, the ones with the most bites deserve the most attention.
Taking a closer look at the topics above, hoverboard news and technical have the most user engagement. These are the most attractive keywords. You can dig deeper for more specific keywords by opening the popular discussions and seeing which threads drive the most user engagement.
Are my Keywords Monetizable?
Assuming that one of your goals is to make money from your blog/website, it's a good idea to make sure that you can monetize your keywords. By no means do you need to monetize every single keyword in mind, it probably wouldn't be a good strategy.
The idea is to manage your expectations for keywords and execute well on the parts of the conversion process that you can control. In a later chapter we'll take a look at content development tactics that can bridge the gap between keyword research and conversions to sales.
There are a few indicators that tell you a keyword can be monetized:
- High Cost Per Click (CPC): If other people are paying a lot for keywords in a paid search campaign, it's because they're making good money from that traffic. The higher the bid for a keyword, the more valuable that keyword is.
- Buyer Intent: Some keywords signal that a visitor is in buying mode. These include for sale, coupon, cheap, price. Affiliate programs that offer coupons are some of the best converting programs I've used.