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How to Do Keyword Research for SEO


Targeting the right keywords is essential for the success of your SEO and Content strategies. If you aim for a keyword with too much competition, you’ll struggle to get anywhere near that all-important first page – and if you aim for a keyword or search phrase with too little traffic, you’re targeting an audience that just isn’t there.

This is where keyword research comes in. It can help you develop a list of keywords which are relevant to your business and match where you are right now in terms of your website’s authority and ability to compete in rankings. You can also build a list of longer-term, higher difficulty keywords to aim for as your site grows.

Before we start looking at the process of keyword research, there are two main types of keywords we’re going to be talking about in this blog. The first is ‘seed’ keywords – which also get referred to as ‘head’ keywords. These are generally one or two words long, and you can think of them as the overall topics your website is going to offer. So, if I had a website on events planning, the seed keywords might be things like conferences, parties, workshops, trade shows, seminars etc. These seed keywords tend to get a lot of traffic, but the flip side is that they can often be very competitive to rank for, and you’ll find yourself going up against big websites in the search results.

The other types of keywords we’ll talk about are long-tail keywords. These are much more specific phrases or questions based on your seed keywords. So example ones for the event planner might be ‘best layouts for a trade show’ or ‘how to plan your seminar’. They’re phrases that people might be searching for some help on a subject, and the event planner can find an audience that are interested in some of the services that they’re offering. Long tail keywords create a lot more options, so the competition is usually less focused and these keywords can be easier to rank for. The balance comes in checking that the long-tail keywords you’ve chosen are getting enough traffic, which we’ll look at a bit later.

When it comes to keyword research, your seed keywords are the best place to start off, even though the level of competition might mean that they’re not a keyword you’re targeting immediately.

Depending on your business, these keywords might be your services, the categories of products that you sell and maybe some general topics from your industry. To kick start your research, begin putting together a list of these that you can continue adding to throughout the process.

You might find that you already know some of your target long-term keywords without realising it. Are there any questions your customer service team get asked over and over again? How about specific short descriptions of products, such as “microphone for singing”, or product names for less mainstream items? These can be a great way of starting off your list of long tail keywords.

Once you and your team have come up with everything you can, we’re going to start using some tools to help generate and research some more ideas. To start you off there’s a few Google tools you can use like Keyword Planner, Autocomplete and Related Searches, as well as other tools like LSI Graph, Ubersuggest and Answer the Public. You can feed your seed keywords into these tools and they’ll give you further suggestions for long-tail keywords either based on or related to your original seed keyword.

Then, if you’ve not already used a tool that shows you this, you need to try and find three different metrics. These can be a bit trickier to look up on the free tools, but if you use a few different ones you can usually get at least a rough idea.

The first is the monthly volume or search volume – this is how many people are searching for that particular keyword each month. This might rule a few of your keywords out if there aren’t enough searches to make it worth the work that you’re putting in.

The second is keyword difficulty, which gives you an idea of the competition you’re up against to rank for that keyword. Anything with a difficulty above 40 to 45 or so is going to start getting quite challenging for a lot of smaller websites to rank for.

And the last one is domain authority. This is effectively just a measure of how authoritative a website is seen as being, largely based on the quality and quantity of backlinks pointing towards it. On it’s own it’s a nice measurement to show progress with your off-page SEO. But it comes in even more handy when it’s used for keyword research, as it shows you how strong your site is compared to those you’ll be competing against. For example, If your site has a domain authority of 46 and the top competitor’s are say 38 and 40, then you’ve got a good chance of being able to overtake them in the results. But if their domain authority is 54 and 60, then they’re going to be quite difficult for you to beat until you’ve built up more authority on your website.

The golden nugget that we’re really looking for is a list of keywords with a decent level of traffic, that aren’t too competitive and which your domain could reasonably compete for, given your current domain authority. You might not manage to match all three, and that’s ok, just get your list as close to it as you can so that you’ve got a strong list of keywords to target.

And that’s it to get you started with your keyword research. Start to create and optimise content for your given keywords, track how well your site’s performing and adjust or add to your keyword list accordingly.

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Hannah Wade

Founder of HeyYou! Digital. Avid drinker of tea.

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