Finding Keyword Ideas
Inspect Your Competitors
One of the best places to start your keyword research is by inspecting your competition. Take a look at their sitemap, how they've structured their content and how well it's written, and take notes. What has worked for them? What can you improve on? How can you deliver a better, more original resource to your customers?
Your goal should be to determine which keywords to focus on and acknowledge any areas you know you can improve on to deliver more comprehensive and helpful content. It's not just about gathering keywords here. It's also about taking the best parts of your competitor's pages and compiling them to create a resource powerhouse.
Another great way to start getting a list of keywords you can work from is to think of any relevant ones that come to mind. What services or products do you sell? What are your customers likely to type in Google when searching for services/goods like yours?
For blog content, you can start gathering ideas for content by answering questions you've gotten dozens of times. If you've been in business for a while, chances are there are questions you've been asked so many times you get tired of answering them. These questions are perfect to create blog posts around. Not to mention - depending on your industry, you can always refer new hires or customers to the blog posts as an educational tool.
The main thing about brainstorming is knowing that most of the keywords you come up with aren't going to be usable. The brainstorming process mainly involves getting your ideas down so you can start with a solid foundation. Once you've gathered a list of every relevant keyword you can think of, you'll use some of the SEO tools we'll discuss later in this guide to really start filling out your list.
Keyword Research Tools
Keyword research tools are a vital part of this process. You can make quality content and rank without them, but in all honesty, it's like shooting a gun in the dark. You can probably hit something, but if you can turn the light and make things ten times easier for yourself, why wouldn't you?
Our list of research tools isn't comprehensive by any means. But it will give you a solid starting point and a decent amount of resources to check out.
We mainly use Semrush in our agency. We use a slew of other paid and free resources and tools, but all of our audits, initial research, and analytics are carried out through Semrush.
Study Your Niche
Even if you know you're a leading expert in your field, studying your niche cannot be overstated. But you should know that it's far more than just knowing about your industry. Knowing your industry is a given.
When conducting a keyword research strategy, your goal again isn't just about making one page, and ranking for one or two keywords. Your goal is to make content that helps and connects with users at each stage of the buying process. In doing so, you'll win over all semantic search engines (Google included).
The way search engines are moving is towards semantic structure and organization. Semantic SEO is about knowing how the different parts of your industry are related and how you can organize your URL structure and content accordingly. It's about understanding how your customers use search engines to interact with your industry.
For instance, using our muffin example from before, if we use Google's autofill suggestions, you can see - in more detail - what users are searching for. Now you know that in addition to making a "best muffin recipe," page, you can also make a similar page for blueberry muffins, diabetic muffins, toddler muffins, and chocolate chip muffins.
Taking this a step further, you can also record the "People also ask" section on search engines like Bing and Google to find other topics, keywords, and content ideas to use.
Now you've got that much more data that can be used to help you understand how your users understand and interact with your content. More importantly however, you now know what Google considers to be semantically related.
In addition, you can also use the "Related searches" section to get more of an idea of what search engines consider to be semantically related. Based on the related searches above, you could make content on moist muffin recipes, muffins that use oil (and by reading between the lines) muffins that don't use oil.
It might seem overwhelming, and you might think you don't want to write content for so many different topics, but it's more than just about that. It's about gathering options that you can use to flesh out a content strategy. The goal of this information should be to research each new concept to find other related aspects that you can use to make content.
The goal of this information should be to research each new concept to find other related aspects that you can use to make content. It might seem overwhelming, and you might be thinking that you don't want to write content for so many different topics, but it's not just about that. It's about gathering options that you can use to flesh out a content strategy.
Overall, you should be writing content even about services and products that you don't offer, because that will be the only way you can complete your topical map. We'll make a guide for topical maps in the future, but all you need to know right now, is that search engines more and more are headed in the direction of topical authority.
The more complete your topical map, the more signals that send to search engines that your website is a force to be reckoned with in your industry, and as long as you aren't doing any blackhat SEO tactics, you are guaranteed to show up well in search results.
Ideas Rather Than Keywords
We'll go into more detail in this section, but for now, just know that the illustration of examplemuffin.com is an example of a very simple, non-comprehensive topical map. Use it as reference throughout this section.
In the wild wild west of SEO, people used to be able to throw a keyword on a site a few hundred times, change the color to match the background color, and rank. Times are much different now.
In all reality, while keywords are incredibly important to your ability to show up in search results, what is becoming increasingly more important than keywords are the ideas the keywords express. When you're making content, it should never be made to target a specific keyword. It should instead be used to target an idea and properly explain a certain part of your topical map.
In short, think of a topical map as a resource that covers every single thing about a topic, in detail. For example, the keyword "best muffin recipe" would be a subtopic about the greater topic of muffins or baking.
If the parent topic was muffins, you should have part of your URL structure dedicated to gluten-free muffins, vegan muffins, dairy-free muffins, sugar-free muffins, diabetic muffins, etc. Then each of these subtopics would have their own subtopics.
If our website was examplemuffin.com, below is an example of what part of a topical map might look like.
I'll start this example by saying I have not researched the best way to organize a muffin website. That type of research takes a lot of competitive analysis, niche-related research, etc. I've chosen to organize the URLs in the way depicted above to convey the type of URL organization typically seen with a topical map.
Use Google Keyword Planner
Google keyword planner is perhaps one of the most underrated keyword research tools. For one, it's completely free, but more importantly, it helps you learn immediately what Google considers to be semantically related.
Not only can you use this tool to help aid you in your Google ads campaigns, but more importantly, it has the largest database for keyword research available online - and it's completely free.
However, the information it allows you to see is quite a bit more limited than other paid tools. It's worth using, and we use it nearly every day in our agency. However, it's mainly used as a second or third reference.
If you want to learn how to do keyword research for yourself, it's an awesome resource to get started, as most of the professional-level SEO tools are anywhere from $100 - $500+ a month, so when you're starting, it can't really be beaten.