Keyword Research

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KEYWORD RESEARCH GUIDE:

Keyword Research – An Introduction

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Keyword Research is the process used in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to research the search terms, phrases and questions that people type into Google.  Researching these keywords can give SEOs and business owners insight into their value, competition, and the potential traffic possible from these keywords.

Why Keyword Research is important

Keyword Research should be one of the first stages of any SEO strategy.  It enables you to determine where to focus your work for your SEO efforts.  If you don’t do keyword research, then you will not know how best to focus your time.

“Keywords are like a compass for your SEO campaigns: they tell you where to go and whether or not you’re making progress.”

Backlinko

If you are a business owner or have your own website, the chance are you know a few of your core keywords, the beauty of Keyword research is that with a little effort you can uncover a whole new list of keywords that you can use to expand your web presence and search visibility.

With a number of free tools available to do extensive keyword research, there is now no excuse not to research the keywords relevant to your business or website.

Understanding the difference between Head, Middle and Long Tail Keywords

  • Head Keyword  – e.g. [Dresses] (Head keywords are very hard to rank for these days.  Obscure head keywords are still possible to rank for.
  • Middle Keyword – e.g. [Prom Dresses]
  • Long Tail Keywords – e.g. [Dresses for the mother of bride for wedding]

Keyword Targeting is (still) important

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If your website lacks the correct keyword targeting, then it will not be able to rank well.  Google can only work with the information that you give it.  For example, if you sell [blue dresses] and you fail to mention this phrase on your website, then you are likely not to rank well for that phrase, even if it is in your domain name.

The content on your website has always been a crucial part of ranking your website.  Google has stated many times that it wants to create the best experience for its users.  This means a large proportion of their time will be working out how to judge what a good user experience is.  If your written content is shabbily written and not relevant to the user, then people will quickly bounce from the page without investigating any further.

Keyword Research Tools

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Unlike other parts of SEO, keyword research can be done very effectively with a handful of very useful, and for the most part, free tools.  Unlike other parts of SEO, a lot of research can be done using these free tools, with no real requirement for paid tools.  (Don’t get me wrong, the paid tools are very useful, and they can provide an extra level of insight, but for newbies to keyword research, the tools below should give you a very good picture).

In this section I will outline some of the core tools used to conduct keyword research in 2016 and beyond.

1. GOOGLE ADWORDS KEYWORD PLANNER (FREE)

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The Google Adwords Keyword Planner is a product from Google that provides all matter of data around search queries in Google, and other resources for planning your Adwords advertising campaign.  This should be your go-to tool for keyword research.  If you find it hard to use, it is definitely worth putting the time in to learn to use this tool properly.  Everything you need to know about the Keyword Planner is outlined in the Google article below:

More Details 

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Advanced Users:

For advanced users, it is worth pointing out that some SEOs have noticed some quirks to the Google Keyword Planner.  But even despite this it still remains one of the best tools that we have to understand keywords.

2. KEYWORDTOOL.IO (FREE/PAID)

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Go to Keywordtool.io 

Keywordtool.io is a free alternative to the Google Keyword Planner.  The user interface of Keywordtool.io is easy to use in comparison to the Google Keyword Planner and also gives substantial information on the questions within your keyword niche.  This is a great tool for quick and dirty keyword research.  The only downside with Keywordtool.io is that you can’t get search volume unless you opt for the paid version.

ProTip: Click on the Questions Tab to get relevant questions within your niche

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3. ANSWERTHEPUBLIC.COM (FREE)

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Go to Answerthepublic.com

Answer the Public is a fantastic free keyword research tool that enables you to look like you have spent hours creating the most beautiful keyword research document ever created.  The great thing about this tool that separates it from the two above, is the way in which it presents the data: In a intricate Spirograph styled circular diagram.

Once you have entered your chosen keyword on the front screen, the tool develops a beautiful looking diagram like the one below with all the variations, questions, prepositions and so on of your keyword.  Remember to check the data before you present it, as it isn’t always 100%, but nevertheless is good for large search volume terms to get an overview of the keyword topic.

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4. SEARCHMETRICS (PAID)

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Searchmetrics isn’t really a keyword research tool by it’s nature, but it can be good for dropping some screenshots into client reports as part of your keyword research document.  It can also be a good way to get a comparison between two websites.  For example, comparing what keywords your company ranks for versus the leading competitor for example.  And to discover estimates for the traffic levels they are getting from certain keywords.

5. SEM RUSH (FREE / PAID)

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Go to SEMRush

SEM Rush has long been the daddy of SEO keyword research tools.  When you conduct a free search you are limited to 10 results unfortunately, but with the paid version you are able to unlock all the data.  Investment in a SEM Rush subscription is well worth it in my opinion, and great for getting more insight into your keyword data.  The information that SEM Rush presents is clear, useful and presentable.

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Among many other features, it is able to:

SEM Rush Features

  • Separate stats for both desktop and mobile searches
  • Get organic search volume & competition
  • Paid search CPC and Competition
  • Trends in volume over time
  • Stats on phrase match keywords (Limited to top 10 in Free version)
  • Stats on related keywords (Limited to top 10 in Free version)
  • Organic search results
  • Ads history: who’s been advertising with the keyword, plus estimated traffic and budget

6. SCRAPEBOX (PAID)

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More Details

Yes that’s right, you can also use Scrapebox to do some fairly decent in depth keyword research.  And no, it’s not Blackhat.

“ScrapeBox features a fast, multi-threaded keyword scraper which is capable of taking one or more keywords and scraping thousands of related keywords in a few seconds. Many search engines and popular shopping sites offer a search suggestions feature which drop down related search terms as you type which ScrapeBox can harvest from.” Scrapebox

Keyword Harvester Tutorial

Scrapebox also offers a helpful video tutorial guide to using their keyword harvester tool.

7. INSTAKEYWORDS (FREE)

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More Details 

I haven’t heard many people mention Instakeywords when it comes to keyword research, but it is a decent tool that includes global and local search volumes, which you can download as a CSV.  There is also a Google Chrome extension so you can research from your browser, although there is currently no territory selection, so all results are presumably from the US.

8. KEYWORD EYE (FREE)

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KeywordEye isn’t one of my go-to tools, but it looks pretty good

More Details

9. KEYWORDS EVERYWHERE

Go to Keywords Everywhere

Keywords Everywhere is a useful little Chrome overlay extension (Think Moz SERP overlay, but for keywords) that provides the worldwide search volumes and their CPCs.  Unfortunately there is no UK territory specific version yet.  But judging from the comments section that appears to be coming soon.

10. UBERSUGGEST

Go to Ubersuggest

Another well known tool for keyword research, Ubersuggest has been around for a while now.  Ubersuggest is great for creating keyword ideas for your project.  It also has a nice built in option to create a word cloud like the one below.

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11. Huballin

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I think Huballin is a keyword tool to watch for 2016.  I like the interface and the smart tags and filters seem to be very helpful.  Most importantly a lot of the results that this tool turns out are actually topics that you can imagine blogging about.

How Keyword Research has changed since 2010

Rand Fishkin of Moz points out in this video amongst other things that keyword research has now moved to topic based keyword research.  Essentially finding the phrases that relate to a topic, grouping them

“We need to group by the same searcher intent. If two searchers are searching for two different terms or phrases but both of them have exactly the same intent, they want the same information, they’re looking for the same answers, their query is going to be resolved by the same content”Rand Fishkin, Moz

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Keyword Research Step by Step

Keyword research is very straightforward and follows a simple process.  I will outline the basic process below on how to do keyword research.

Step 1: Basic Research

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  1. Go to Keywordtool.io.  Make sure the right Google territory is selected for your search e.g. If you are in the UK: set the territory to Google.co.uk to get UK keyword results.

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2. Enter your keyword(s) e.g. [dog walking] and click on the red search button

3. Click “Copy All” to copy all the keywords and then paste these in to a new Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet.

4. Get the search volume, competition and CPCs for these keywords using the Google Adwords Keyword planner tool.

Step 2: Divide the Keywords by user intent (Keyword Buckets)

Once you have created your huge list of keywords for your website along with search volumes, Competition and CPCs, it is very tempting just to leave it there and put it into document and forget about it.  But there is an extra step that you can take, which will allow you to group your keywords into ‘buckets’ or ‘portfolios’ of user intent.  Grouping keywords into user intent buckets allows you to take your keyword analysis one step further and enables you to understand the keyword performance of different keyword groups.  This is important because it can uncover where your website is performing well and where it could improve.

Google has known to talk a lot about creating ‘Great Content’ a lot in the past, almost to the point of parody.  High quality, (great), content should be broadly defined as content that provides a good experience, provides engagement for the user.  This means Google wants you to write content that helps the user in some form.  Answering users’ long tail questions can be just the start of this.  Users go to Google primarily to ask questions.  e.g.  “How do I….”  “What is the best …….”  “Where to get ……in London”

These are examples of the groups that I use:

  • Questioning keywords
  • Informational keywords
  • Review keywords
  • Lead Keywords
  • Location keywords
  • Branded keywords

Step 3: Research the Long Tail Phrases

Searchmetrics can be a good way to quickly research the types of long tail phrases that your competitors are using.

Step 4: Discovering what Keywords your Competitors are ranking for

If you are just starting out and haven’t performed a Keyword Analysis before, then it is worth considering what your competitors are ranking for and what keywords or key phrases they are using on their website.

  1. Using the Google Adwords Keyword Planner Tool, we can find out very quickly what kind of keywords are associated with any site on the internet.  To find the keywords of a particular website log in to the Google Adwords Keyword Tool (You will need a Google account to do this).  Then click on the follow below:  “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category.”  For this example we will use a competitor website to get the keywords.

 

Say for example you have a website within the online carpet niche… and you want to get the keywords from a particular website.  For this example we will look at: http://www.comparethecarpet.com/.

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Enter your competitor’s site on the “Your Landing Page” column and then click on “Get Ideas”

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2. You can also use Searchmetrics to get a quick overview of the keywords that any site is ranking for and create a comparison against your own website.

Keyword Diversity within your niche, not Keyword / Key Phrase Repetition

It used to be possible not so long ago to rank sites in Google by repeating keyword phrases over and over, and over again.  This technique is known as Keyword or Key Phrase Spamming, and is not a tactic you want to be using on your site.  Many companies and even some old-school SEOs actually believe that this tactic still works – crazy.  It doesn’t, and even if it does for a short while it will not withstand the updates of Google’s future updates.

The Importance of Long Tail Keyword Research

Many SEOs when they start out are drawn towards the head keywords that command the toweringly high search volumes.  Although there is nothing wrong with this tactic, realistically targeting these head terms when you are up against huge multinationals who have whole SEO teams dedicated to ranking their clients for these terms is often unrealistic.

What are Long-tail keywords?

Long-tail keywords are simply longer, more descriptive versions of the head , or main keywords.

According to Moz ~70% of searched keywords making up the long tail they are very important in the Google landscape.  In terms of conversions the extra description actually helps them convert better.  Because long tail queries are more specific, they are more likely to have less competition as well; enabling to you to rank better.  Yes, ofcourse the search volume isn’t going to be as big as the head term, but if you can rank number 1 for a long tail phrase that brings in conversions rather than on the third page for a head phrase that brings in 0 conversions there is a clear winner in my opinion.