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Maximize your rankings with our comprehensive keyword research guide! In today's article, you'll learn everything you need to know to find, analyze, and use keywords that will help your content rank well in search engines! So, let's get started by understanding what keyword research is in the first place.

What Is Keyword Research

What is keyword research

Keyword research is the step of SEO that involves searching for, analyzing, and implementing keywords that people are most likely to type into search engines. It isn't enough to uncover the fact that people are searching for specific keywords. Keyword research also uses various tactics and methods to determine which keywords users search for also make sense in terms of the ROI they stand to provide. 

Why Is Keyword Research Important?

Analyzing potential keywords to determine their ROI

Keyword research is incredibly important to the success of any website's marketing campaign because it allows you to ensure the content being created will provide a return on investment. Without keyword research, you are essentially taking shots in the dark. It is the step that uses various sources of data, metrics, and competitive analysis to determine which keywords make the most sense to target from a strictly data-driven standpoint.

Before conducting keyword research, however, a few things need to be understood regarding keywords.

What Should Be Understood About Keywords

Keywords are simply words or phrases users type in when searching for an answer, product, idea, or anything else that one might search for. An important thing to understand regarding keywords is that there are different variations of keywords. Each provides different benefits, serves different use cases, and can even target different subgroups of the same demographic.

If you are just getting started, it is recommended that you head over to our keywords page before continuing to ensure you get the most of the following information.

Before going too much further, let's dive into the different types of keywords that you might run into.

What Are The Different Types Of Keywords?

Different types of keywords

While these aren't all of the types of keywords, these are the most common variations that you will see when conducting keyword research. If you want to learn even more about keywords,

Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are by far the most profitable for the majority of businesses, as these keywords are very specific. Because of how specific they are, this usually means not many people search for them a month. Because not many people are searching for them, the competition is very low and attainable for most businesses.

In addition to the extra specificity of long-tail keywords, they are often asked by users who are ready to make a purchase, and they know what they want to buy - hence the hyper-specific keywords.

For instance, based on the following example queries, which user seems more likely to make an immediate purchase?

Keyword 1. - "Best Tennis Shoes," or Keyword 2 - "Size 12 ASICS Gel-Resolution 9 for sale."

Keyword 2, right? Keyword 1 is incredibly generic and is indicative of a user who probably still needs to do the research required to limit their choices. At the same time, Keyword 2 is incredibly specific and even mentions "for sale."

Keyword 2 is an example of a long-tail keyword. Long-tail keywords are by far the most profitable keywords for nearly any business to target. Keyword 1 is a mid-tail keyword.

Mid-Tail Keywords

Mid-tail keywords are slightly less specific than long-tail keywords. They are also often much more competitive as well. However, they can still be quite profitable, especially for websites and companies offering high-level coverage of a specific industry or niche. 

For instance, if you sold most tennis shoes available, Keyword 1 would still be a good keyword to target, as you can create content that helps the user come to a decision

This means that through the use of other strategically designed content on your website, you can help them come to a decision that results in a sale. So, while they are much more generic than long-tail keywords, they are still very descriptive compared to short-tail keywords.

Short-Tail Keywords

Short-tail keywords are usually just one or two words. These keywords are the most competitive keywords you can target and will result in massive amounts of traffic. 

Usually, large international brands will be ranked for keywords like this. For example, "Shoes" or "Tennis Shoes" are good examples of short-tail keywords. In fact, at the time of writing this article, DSW currently ranks first. DSW is a multi-billion-dollar company.

Question Keywords

Keyword questions are great ways to increase the relevancy of your pages to the topics they cover. By utilizing question keywords throughout the content on your pages, you can make your content more comprehensive, more relevant to a wider variety of related questions, and even more likely to win featured snippets!

Check out our page on keyword questions, which walks you through how to find, target, and utilize these types of queries.

Intent Targeting Keywords

Intent targeting keywords are types of keywords targeting specific types of user intent. User intent refers to the type of goal users typically have when searching specific queries. If you are targeting a keyword that is typically used when people want to make a purchase, create content that reflects that.

If, for example, you targeted a transactional keyword but only made content that informs users about the specifics of a product or compares two products to one another, they will leave your page frustrated. The reason for their frustration is the fact that the search intent of the keyword wasn't reflected through your content.

It isn't enough to target a high-traffic keyword. You also need to ensure you are targeting a keyword that is relevant to the central offering of your company/website and one that makes sense - in terms of the intent - with the page you're creating. The best way to ensure you are targeting the right keywords in the right way is to carry out your keyword research in a three-phased approach.

How To Do Keyword Research: Three Phase Approach

In this section, we'll walk you through a three-phased approach to keyword research. If you follow each phase carefully, you will end up with a solid master list of keywords for your own pages/company to use going forward.

Phase 1: How To Find Keywords

Finding keyword ideas

The first phase is all about where exactly you can find keywords to begin with. Without being able to find keywords, you won't be able to analyze or let alone use them.

Autocomplete Suggestions

Finding keywords with auto complete suggestions

In Google, Bing, Yandex, etc., there are autocomplete suggestions that you can use to find keyword ideas. All you need to do is type in a general "seed" keyword idea and watch what autocomplete shows.

These suggestions are typically asked very frequently - hence why they appear. If you see something pop up here, it is a safe bet that it gets a decent amount of traffic and could potentially be worth pursuing on your website in the future.

PAA Sections (People Also Ask) / MTA (More To Ask)

Finding keyword ideas with the 'More to ask' section

Another clue that can be gained from search engines would be the PAA (people also ask) section. In this section, after typing in a query into the search engine, you'll be confronted with a variety of questions that are deemed related to your original query.

The benefit of these queries is that if you are writing a page on your original query, it is usually a safe bet that you should include these questions as well. Though, that is not always the case.

With every addition to your content, you need to weigh out whether or not it would make sense to your main topic and whether or not it would help to enrich your content further. If it does help to enhance your content and improve the depth, quality, and helpfulness of your content, you've found an extra heading you can include on your page.

Google's 'Related to this search' Feature

Finding keyword ideas with the 'Related to this search' section

Another feature that you can glean keyword ideas from is the "searches related to" feature offered by Google. Your goal is to improve the relevance of your page to the topic the page is about. With these SERP features we've talked about so far, you have hard proof that each thing gleaned is already considered relevant.

Using this section in particular, you can find other keyword ideas that you might not have otherwise thought of.

Competitive Analysis

One of the best ways to find keyword ideas is to run a competitive analysis of the first 3-5 competing pages that already rank. Typically, you would use a variety of keyword research tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, Moz, etc. You can also do this with your eyes - however, it would be much more difficult and time-consuming.

The benefit of doing competitive analysis is that you will find a huge list of related keywords and keyword variations you can include throughout your page to help improve your authority and ranking potential.

Find Keyword Ideas With SEO Tools

The best way to find and analyze keyword prospects is by paying for and using SEO tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, Moz, etc. These keywords make very quick work out of what would ordinarily be an arduous process.

You can also carry out competitive analysis in many different forms through these same SEO tools as well. Using Semrush, we are able to gain all organic keywords ranked by as many pages as we need, export the data to a CSV file, and import everything we need into a Google Sheets file for our campaigns.

Now that you've learned how to acquire a list of keywords you can sort through, you need to learn what to do with all of that data! In the next section, we'll walk through the process required to analyze your new keyword list to determine which ones are worth targeting and which ones you can get rid of.

Phase 2: How To Analyze Keywords & Understand Keyword Metrics

How to analyze keywords

The second phase is great for measuring the relevance, ROI, and intent of each keyword to determine which keywords will be the most profitable for your company to target.

Analyze Search Intent Using Search Results

Analyzing search results to determine search intent

Search intent is incredibly important to analyze, and today, you'll learn two methods for analyzing search intent. The first method is to just google your keyword. What type of content shows up?

If listicles show up, you know you should only target that keyword with a listicle. If blog posts show up, you'll need to make a blog post. If... you get it. Give the people what they want. Google ranks specific content types because that is the search intent of the given search query.

The second method would be to use keyword tools to determine this for you. Although it is best to do both, just so you learn not to rely on any one SEO tool, as no tool is perfect and without fault. However, many SEO tools provide search intent indicators to help you determine if a keyword should be targeted.

Analyze Target Keywords With SEO Tools

Ahrefs SEO toolsSEMrush SEO tools

Another method, just as the last one indicated, is to use SEO tools to help you determine the potential ROI offered by specific keywords. Many tools even offer bulk analysis of up to hundreds of keywords at a time. The data is much less comprehensive in this way, but it is something to keep in consideration for quickly screening your prospects.

Understanding Keyword Difficulty

Analyzing keyword difficulty

Keyword difficulty is an artificial metric created by various SEO tools to help you determine how difficult it would be to rank for a given query. Generally, the lower the difficulty, the more likely you can rank.

However, it is also important to note that KD (keyword difficulty) is flat and pays no respect to the actual authority your website has. So, it could be under or overestimating your chances of ranking.

You don't need SEO tools to determine the KD, but it can help if you are just starting out. Simply looking at search results and getting a sense of the quality of each ranking website will give you enough of an idea as to how difficult a query would be to rank for. If you see nothing but websites like Amazon, Etsy, Walmart, Target, JCPenny, etc., chances are, it's pretty difficult.

Understanding Keyword Volume

Analyzing keyword volume

Keyword volume is an important metric to remember when determining which keywords are worth targeting because it displays the number of monthly searches a specific query gets. This metric can be the downfall of some websites, as people tend to ignore everything except for the volume, leading to low-quality content.

Making your website a comprehensive resource covering all aspects of your niche (topical authority) is better than just targeting as many high-volume, low-quality keywords as possible. In other words, it is far better to create pages that target every aspect of your niche than it is to create pages targeting high-volume keywords.

In fact, even if it means making a bunch of pages for keywords that receive no traffic, it will be more beneficial for your website in the long run than targeting low-quality, high-volume keywords. You'll receive a bigger boost in traffic and authority with the long-term goal of topical authority than you ever will chasing after the short-term goal of low-quality, high-traffic keywords.

Understanding CPC

Analyzing keyword CPC

Cost per click is an important metric to consider, especially when trying to narrow your choices between a few similarly phrased keywords. If you plan to invest in Google ads, knowing the CPC is very important in ensuring you remain within your budget.

In addition, CPC will tell you which keyword variations are more profitable. If you have two similar keywords, but keyword A has an ideal CPC and keyword B doesn't, you should always choose keyword A.

So, now that you understand what metrics to consider when finding the perfect keywords to target, let's dive into how you should use your keywords.

Phase 3: How To Use Keywords

How to use keywords

In phase 3, we will walk you through how exactly you should use your keywords. To learn more about keyword usage, however, check out the pages linked below in each subsection.

Choose A Primary Keyword For A Page

After you have gathered a list of keywords and weighed their potential using the metrics discussed above, it is time to determine which makes the most sense as your primary keyword.

After you've checked each metric of all potential primary keywords, choose the best one. If several are close, you can look at competing pages to help you determine which one makes the most sense.

But, once you determine your primary keyword, it's time to practice proper keyword placement.

Practice Proper Keyword Placement

Ensure that your primary keyword is in the proper places, such as the URL, Title, H1, and paragraph tags. To learn more about proper keyword placement, visit our detailed KW placement page. Also, ensure you're placing many variations of your primary keyword, as well as synonyms, all throughout your content as well.

How Do You Know You're Using The Right Keywords?

If you've already gone through the effort of gathering keywords, analyzing them, and weighing which ones are worth targeting and which ones aren't, choosing your keywords should be pretty simple.

Try to choose keywords most related to the page you're making. For example, if you own an e-commerce leatherwork store, creating pages that educate people on your industry makes sense—pages on the various techniques used, the history of leatherworking, etc. In the process of creating these pages, you're going to naturally find keywords you'll need to target during the creation of these pages.

This is what will help to set your website apart from your competition. Most websites focus on making content around high-volume keywords, which is a short-sighted, low-quality strategy.

The higher quality strategy is creating dozens or even hundreds of pages that educate people on your industry. In doing this, you will inevitably create pages that target keywords that receive no search traffic. But, it will be an amazing resource for your users, and it will help to propel you up in the SERPs (search engine results pages).

Final Thoughts

So now that you've learned everything you need to know to go out there and gather keywords, analyze/measure them, and choose them for your own purposes, go out and get practice.

It isn't enough to just read our article on keyword research. Now, you need to put what you've learned into practice. Every time you make a page, you should carry out these steps—every single time. Eventually, you'll develop a rhythm, a flow, a process that will help you speed up the process and do it without even thinking about it.