Keyword Research Starter Guide

Keywords are at the heart of all search engine searches. As you head over to your favorite search engine or even website search box, what you enter are the words that you think will bring up the desired results for your search. Those words are the search terms used that keyword research is hoping to discover.

Why does this matter? Let's step back and look at your SEO goals. I bet close to the top of your list is gain more relevant traffic for your website. To gain more traffic to your website, you know you need your content to come up at the very top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). According to every SEO professional ever, to come up earlier on the SERP, you have to have content on your webpage that search engines are confident will return valuable results to their searchers. Valuable results to searchers mean more meaningful engagements and more clicks for your webpage.

A big note here, notice I said webpage and not website. This is an important distinction when it comes to the SERP. SERP results return 1-page link with a Title and Meta Description for each result, and not an entire website. Logically, what you say on a blog post should rank completely different on the SERP with different search terms than your Homepage, and that is a very good thing!

Keyword Research is the process SEO specialists use to determine what words people are using to search for the terms that have to do with your webpage and hopefully and thoughtfully with your website as whole.

Let’s take a look at the steps we take at SeeMe Media to do Keyword Research for our clients.

Make a list of important, relevant topics to your business

We are going to start macro here. We need to determine all the buckets of terms and phrases you think are relevant to the users of your website. These buckets will be your website's topics. To start these will mostly be generic terms, and you should come up with 5-10 buckets. We will use these topics to come up with more granular keyword phrases soon.

These topics may include, area your business is in, or the categories of your blog. You want to think about how someone from outside your business, in your target audience, would try to understand and organize your business, it is after all their searches that will find your content. For SeeMe Media, it might look like this, “SEO Help,” “Building a WordPress website,” “Keynote Speaker,” “SEO Reporting,” and “Social Media” just to name five.

Another suggestion is to create a few personas of your clients or the people you think will be searching for your site. Come up with personas like a return visitor, a new female visitor, and 20 something looking for … You get the idea (if you don't check out this article from UX Planet on creating personas). If you can put yourself in their shoes you will be many steps ahead on the next part of the process.

Now fill in those topics with lots of keyword terms

Make a list of terms that have to do with each of the topics you came up with. These are words or phrases that you think your target audience will find valuable and should result in content ending up on a SERP. If we were to take a look at “SEO Help” for SeeMe Media, we might come up with a list like this:

And so on…and so on… and so on. This is a brainstorm list. Nothing should be removed and every thought put down. This won’t be your final list, so don’t worry if something doesn’t fit exactly. We just want to get a brain dump of everything that might ever lead someone to your topic. Be sure to go through this process for each of your topics.

Now let’s take a look at keywords your site is already being found for. There are quite a few ways to accomplish this. First, Google Search Console, Google Analytics, Bing Webmaster Tools, Ubersuggest, and SEMRush will all help you to see how people are already finding your content. Be sure to check for your organic search incoming traffic and impressions and get those words added to your lists, onto the right topics.

One last place to look is your FAQ or common questions you are asked about your business. If you are hearing it from your clients and customers, it is sure to be something that someone from outside your business is asking about you too.

Research the related search terms

Time to put on that creative hat and see what you come up with. Head over to Google and start doing some searches of your own. Be creative and come up with questions that might lead people to your content. Once a search has come up, be sure to look at the bottom of the SERP page for the “Searches Related to….” box. Here Google is basically telling you what other search terms you should keep an eye out for. If any of these make sense to add to your list, do so, if not just leave them off. Don’t stop there. Uses some of those related, relevant terms to do some more searches on Google and see what other suggestions come up and then just repeat the process.

Google Search Results Illustration

Have a mix of type keywords

There are two basic types of head/main terms and long-tail keywords. Head terms are usually one or three words that are generally searched more frequently. This makes them generally more competitive and in many cases harder to rank for. Terms like goalkeeper camp, image comparison software, science, soccer, news article, blogging are examples of some head terms. Long-tail keyword phrases are generally phrases containing three or more words. They can be easier to rank for but not as often searched as the head terms. An example of a long-tail keyword phrase would be; “How do you call shotgun to ride in a car?” or “what are the rules for calling shotgun?

Let’s look at an example. Which of the following do you think is harder to rank for?

  1. Shotgun
  2. How do I call shotgun to ride in a car?

If you answered #1 for harder to rank for, you are right. Head terms can have lots of meaning which also means lots of competitors. Head terms usually translate into lots of traffic, but can also be the wrong traffic for your site.

Which of the terms above do you think will return a more targeted result?

That's right #2. Long-Tail keyword phrases, although lower in volume, tend to be more pointed at your content and have higher conversions. Long-tail keywords can also get you some quick wins early on while you build up your content going after head terms. We don’t want to ignore either, but you can see why it is important to have a good mix of your type of keywords. Head back over to that list you have started and make sure your list is a good mix of head terms and long-tail keywords.

What is your competition doing?

Just like local pizza shops keep their eyes on the big pizza delivery companies, so should you. Understanding what your competitors are doing with their keywords will help you add a few words to your list. We don’t want a copy of their list, but we want to make sure we haven’t missed anything that might raise up our list of keywords. If your list has a few items that your competitor has on their list then you know you may want to pay attention and look to improve your ranking for those keywords as well. The opposite can be true as well. Keywords that are on your list and not theirs will show you some opportunities for you to capture part of the search.

Our goal is to end up with a list of keyword phrases that provide some quick wins but also help towards more traffic with more difficult SEO in the end.

What you aren’t able to get that competitor of yours to give you their list of keywords? Don’t worry! There are some great tools available that are able to pull up the keywords that sites are ranking for, their position, and much, much more. Head over to SEMRush to get a taste of what your competitors are doing. They provide free, partial reports that will help you get started with your keyword list. Another good site to check out is Ubersuggest. They are able to show you popular search terms, as well as sites that are similar to yours, helping you identify some of the competition you will have for traffic to your site.

Analyze your list

Now you have a bunch of keywords under each of your topics it is time to see if any of the keywords have legs in the marketplace. Head on over to Google Keyword Planner. If you don’t have an account you will need to set one up with your Google logins. Don’t worry, you don’t have to make an ad but you do need an account. In the keyword planner, you can search for the volume and traffic estimates for each of the keywords on your list. Use the keyword planner to identify terms that have either too much or too little traffic volume for your list. Don’t delete them, just identify them. Next up, head over to Google Trends to check out the search history on some of your identified words. Some of your low volume keywords may turn out to diamonds in the rough and give you something you can invest your time into now, and reap the rewards from over time. Look for terms that trend over time, are usually going up or flat, but avoid terms with sharp downsides.

Boom… your list is done ... for now...

You now have a shiny new list of keyword phrase that can help you focus on for the content on your website for your business. Use these keywords when you are putting together new articles for your site, looking at reworking your Title and Meta Tags, and of course to rework some of your past content.

Now, your keyword list is never done. Find a way to keep your list handy and over time be sure to recheck your terms. We suggest once every three months to review your keywords and see if anything is newly trending. Some businesses may want to do it more often, and that is great, but don’t let your list sit for months on end without any attention. The more keywords you can rank for over time the more authority you will have with the SERPs.

Happy Keywording!