Why is keyword research so important for SEO?

Keyword Research CloudYou’ve just received a bid for getting help with your SEO, and on the bid, you see something like “Keyword Research” or “Keyword Analysis”. In your mind, you are thinking, “I know what my keywords are. Why do we need to more keyword research, and why do we need to do it every month?” The simple answer, just like in life the words you use matter, and in SEO they matter more than you may ever understand.

Keyword research is one of the first steps, and arguably one of the most important SEO factors for identifying optimization opportunities for getting the right visitors your website.

The difference between a website that gets tons of organic searches and one that gets none are the keywords you use. If you don’t pay attention to these, you may target either an overserved market (lots of competition for page 1), or miss the mark on your market altogether.

So let’s get this out of the way now. Keyword research is NOT a list of words. Keyword research is the work done to identify a number of factors, including traffic, clickthrough rates over time, conversion, and search engine result page(SERP) spots, all while keeping in mind your target audience and the goals of your business.

By using effective keyword research tools you can determine popular underserved niches in your target marketing, find related markets you may have overlooked, and rank well in search engines results that have the best traffic for your ideal visitors.

What is a Keyword?

A keyword is simply a word or phrase typed into a search engine to find information on the desired topic. A longtail keyword phrase is a group of 3 or more words that can be more targeted than a simple one or two-word search. Longtail keywords help you truly target your audience.

Simple Keyword: chili
Longtail Keyword: best chili powder for cooking

Using Keywords in your writing

Knowing your target audience and your target keywords before writing, or when updating a page, will help guide your writing. By optimizing your page for a keyword or phrase you can create content that sounds natural, and human-centered, as you write it, but can include your keyword phrase to make a bigger impact on the search engine result pages.

Keyword vs Longtail Keyword Phrases

Start with the understanding that most individual real words have been targeted as keywords in some way on a website somewhere. You still want to pay attention to those standard keywords, but where we can make the most impact is usually by targeting longtail keyword phrases.

Imagine all the search results that would have come in for a search for “chili”. Alternately, what will come up when we use the longtail keyword phrase of “best chili powder for cooking”? The searcher is able to get the results they were really looking for, and as long as our article really is about that search, then click to our site will likely be a successful one, keeping the user on the page to read the content on that page.

This is good for you as the page owner because you eliminate traffic that wasn’t meant for our content, lowering our bounce rate, and really only getting people to our article about your subject.

The kicker here is that a lot of small companies don’t even consider longtail keyword phrases when writing their articles. By utilizing keyword research,  you can identify underserved phrases and create content to target that underserved traffic. The more specific you are with the keyword phrases, the better your chances you have of being ranked higher on the SERP.

How do I know if a keyword is one I should target?

Start with keywords that can naturally be part of your content. Trying to shoehorn a keyword into your content is uncomfortable to read, and the search engine knows it. Read your content out loud and if it doesn’t sound natural avoid inserting the keyword or phrase and find another way to incorporate it.

  1. Start with a seed list
    Write down as many words and phrases as you can about your page. You will want to do this for your site overall, and your individual page or post. This is your best guess at words that would describe the content on your page. If you think of more words throughout the process, add them. This is an organic list and should continue to morph throughout the life of your website.
  2. Ask these questions of each word/phrase of yourself:
    a) Do real people search for this word/phrase?
    b) If people get to my site from searching for this word, will it be what they are really looking for?
    c) Are people who get to my site from that search my target audience?
    If your keyword for the page doesn’t answer these questions, they should be adjusted.
  3. How hard will it be to rank for the word/phrase
    You may have exactly what people are searching for on your site, but if no one can find you because your competition is too strong, all of your SEO efforts could be wasted. This is where keyword research comes in. We want to answer the following questions:

    1. How many people are searching for the word/phrase?
    2. How many other sites are targeting the same word/phrase?

SEO Research tools

How can you figure out what your competition is doing with keywords? Here are a few tools to use to help understand your market, competition and keyword usage.

Google Search Console
A free service from Google, that shows you the keywords used to discover content on your site.

A freemium keyword research tool, that allows you to search words and phrases and returns similar phrases and the competition level for those keywords.

A freemium competitors research tool, that allows you to plug in any URL and see what that site is doing for search traffic, paid ads and referrals.