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26th August 2020

What is Keyword Research? An Essential Guide

What is Keyword Research?

It shouldn’t be news to you that keywords play a vital role in SEO if you’re hoping to formulate a solid content strategy. But to get the right keywords to use in your SEO copywriting and content marketing, and digital marketing efforts, you have to carry out keyword research. 

Running with whichever keywords enter into your mind can get you started, but if you want to succeed in your keyword campaign, you must be strategic about how you get and use keywords, your keyword research process and your SEO content strategy

Let’s take a look at what keyword research is and why it is necessary.

What Is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the process of identifying popular search terms (words or phrases) that people enter into their search engines when looking for something online. The research phase includes identifying keywords with high search volumes, and which are not too competitive you can rank for them in the SERPs. It’s about finding the sweet spot between search volume, competition, and search intent.

Why Is Keyword Research Important?

One easy way to say it is that the keywords that your SEO content is optimised for ultimately decide your audience and viewership, not your content – no matter how great it is. By now, you might be thinking ‘But search engines are meant to understand my target audience and show my content to them?’

Well, yes and no. It’s true that search engines are supposed to display content about roofing (and not shoes) to someone searching for ‘roofing repairs’. But if your page was optimised for ‘roofing contractor in north London’ in a bid to tell everyone that you are a north London roofing contractor, your page will hardly (if at all) be displayed for ‘roofing repairs’, even if you highlighted roofing repairs as one of your services on that page.

Then there’s the matter of competition. If ‘roofing repairs’ is a highly competitive keyword and your page is optimised for it, you may end up being on the 10th or 11th page in the search results. As a result, because you’re ranking low in the search results, your audience might never find you.

This all demonstrates why you need to learn how to write for SEO so you can rank on the first page – and proper keyword research is the first step in the process.

How To Do Keyword Research

There are several ways and tools you can use to carry out your keyword research, but it begins with getting a seed keyword. This is a keyword you start with that relates to your industry and contains a search intent that you meet with your product or service or information. The seed keyword can also be an idea or a topic. For example, if you are in the online entrepreneurship niche, you can start with a seed keyword such as ‘make money online’ or even ‘make money’.

Depending on your keyword research tool of choice, the next step in the process will be to enter your seed keyword and let the tool give you the result. There are free and paid options for tools to use.

Let’s demonstrate using free tools provided by Google so you can immediately begin improving your SEO copywriting techniques (or your entire SEO campaigns). 

The first is Google’s search suggestion tool from your search bar or the search bar in your browser powered by Google (most search engines provide this functionality, too). It is a handy tool that is highly underused by many people.

The minute you type in your seed keyword into your search bar, the suggestion tool fires out some keyword suggestions. Google, for example, displays them based on search volume, current trends and relevance to the search term. And as stated above, they are also based on searches being made in your local area.

A word of caution when using these suggested search terms: since they are based on what’s currently trending, they are best used when you want to mirror a trend. For a more long-term SEO campaign, you should target more stable keywords or keywords that trend all year round, not those with short spikes.

Similar to the search terms suggested in the search bar, you’ll find another set of suggested keywords elsewhere on the search results pages.

Google’s Keyword Planner is an in-depth tool that provides search volume, competition, suggested bid and much more. You can also find out if a keyword has a good trend history or is another search term with one or more huge trend spikes but is of no use afterwards. Combining Keyword Planner with Google Trends makes it even better.

When running research campaigns like this, it is crucial to take into consideration the phase in the buyer journey that you want to target or optimise for, because the search terms and language used in the different stages in the buyer journey are different.

How Frequently Should You Research Keywords?

Keyword research is something that you need to do frequently. Your audience's needs are constantly evolving, and so are the things they’re searching for. Also, new keywords are continually being formed, so you will you need to re-evaluate and maintain this research often.

Keyword research is hard work, but it is definitely worth it. If you are too busy working on all the other parts of your business, you should hand it over to an SEO agency rather than do nothing about it.

Keywords are the building blocks of your SEO campaign, so you find the right ones. The best keywords are a combination of search intent, search volume, and moderate (sometimes high) competition. These characteristics cannot be guessed by looking at the keyword. You need to carry out proper keyword research to determine these. Do that, and you’ll be well on your way to a winning SEO strategy.

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