Keyword research is an essential part of building your business online. You should complete this research when you’re first building your website, writing content that will be release anywhere digital, or making your social media plan, and update it regularly to ensure you stay ahead of the competition.
What is keyword research, though, and why is it important?
What Keywords Are
SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is a complicated field, but keywords are where it all starts.
Keywords are simply words or phrases that describe what you’re all about – what your business is and what you sell. Which keywords will work for you may not be obvious. Your goal should be to find the terms your audiences is actually searching for online.
Your goal is to appear on search engine results pages (SERPs) when people type in your keywords on Google, Bing or any other search engine. The higher you rank, the more traffic you get and the more sales you make! Incredibly, the #1 result in Google gets approximately 32% of all clicks.
Selecting Your Keywords
Ok, so keywords are an essential part of your strategy for online success – but what types of keywords should you look at, and how do you choose?
Let’s say you’re a shoe shop in Galway, with a focus on Adidas. Some of your keywords are likely to be ‘shoe shop Galway’ ‘buy Adidas Galway’, ‘running shoes Galway’, etc.
You might be thinking that there are lots of shoe shops in your area, or much bigger shoe shops, and ranking for a common keyword like ‘shoe shop’ seems like an uphill battle to fight.
It’s true! Therefore, you ideally want your keywords to hit the sweet spot of having a high search volume in your target market, but low competition overall.
You should have a main keyword, or focus keyword, and several long tail keywords (3 or more words) that you’re optimising for. Long tail keywords focus on potential customers who know exactly what they want – e.g., ‘buy Adidas Ultraboost 22’ – and are closer to making a purchase.
Your focus keyword goes in your headlines, your page titles, your URL if possible, your meta descriptions – everywhere it makes sense to put it in. Your long tail keywords should be the focus of specific pages, blogs and social posts.
That’s a quick look at different types of keywords and their importance. Now, how do you make a list to target?
1. Brainstorm Relevant Topics
Think of a list of topics that are relevant to your business, and important to the biggest areas of that business – the ones you’re most interested in ranking for. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience. If you’re looking for your product, which topics are you most interested in?
If you’re a digital marketing agency like Sprint Digital, those topics might look a little this:
- Digital marketing agency
- Pay-per-click marketing
- Website design
- Social media marketing
Once you have those, great – time to get more specific!
2. Identify Keywords for Each Topic
Generate a list of keywords for each topic. These are phrases you’d expect someone to type or speak into a search engine. For our ‘pay-per-click’ bucket, we might be looking at a list like this:
- PPC marketing agency
- Advertising on google
- Programmatic ad agency
- PPC marketing strategy
- How to get started with PPC
- Agency that advertises on google ads
- Paid search marketing agency
- Top digital marketing agency Dublin
Check for a mix of short and long tail keywords in each topic. This isn’t a final list of keywords, just a brainstorm. Do this for every topic you have.
If you’re getting stuck, ask your team! Anyone who is customer facing likely has some good insights here on terms your clients or customers use. You may also find it useful to ask someone not involved in your business at all, to make sure you’re not just using industry terms.
You can also check your organic search report in Google Analytics to see which terms your website is already being found for. You may find some surprises!
3. Find Related Search Terms
We’re going to recommend using Google to do this, because Google currently has 86.86% of the search engine market – that’s a lot of users, and a lot of data.
Put in your major keywords and see what Google suggests as related searches. It’s a great way to get a bit of perspective and make sure your lists are thorough:
4. Analyze Your List for User Intent
Try to think from the perspective of your audience – type as though you were searching for a similar business or ask someone not associated with your business what they would type.
This can be a difficult exercise, so as a shortcut we recommend typing those keywords into Google. What pages are already ranking? Are they your competitors? Are unrelated or similar-but-not-the-same searches coming up instead?
Consider whether the keyword is for someone researching your product, or someone who is ready to buy or planning to buy soon. For example, ‘what is a ppc agency’ above is probably someone who is still in their initial stages of research. You want to focus on keywords with higher buying intent to make sure you get those sales you’re looking for.
5. Discover the Volume of Your Keywords
Ok, you’ve got your list of likely keywords. Now it’s time to see how much volume they get – that is, average monthly searches. Use a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner or a paid SEO tool like SEMrush or Ubersuggest for this.
Upload your list and find out:
- How high the search volume is. If it’s too low, there’s no point in putting in the effort to optimise for it. Move on!
- Similarly, if a keyword is uber-competitive, and high traffic, it’s worth asking yourself if it’s worth competing for. If it is, make sure your content for that keyword is spot-on, polished and prolific. Ideally, you’re looking for high volume and lower competition.
- The tools will also suggest related terms. Skim through these and make sure you haven’t missed out on keywords in that high volume, low competition space.
This should give you a robust list of keywords you can use to kickstart your content. However, your journey is just beginning! We recommend re-evaluating your keyword list ideally quarterly, but at least annually. Search patterns change, industries evolve, and there are always new things to discover.