When you first enter the business world, you may feel tidal waves of competition. Wondering how to stay afloat with so many competitors for rankings in online search results? Keyword research helps you identify valuable keywords and phrases your audience searches online — and it’s the foundation of any successful SEO strategy.
Understanding and targeting terms your audience searches will help you appear at the top of search results, so more people can find, contact, and purchase from your business. In this post, we’ll give you a step-by-step keyword research guide to help you rank in more relevant search results and give you insight into how to search for keywords for SEO. Want to speak with a strategist before reading more?
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What is a keyword?
A keyword is a word or phrase that describes the main topic of your content. The benefit of including keywords in your content is that they help search engines match your page to the search queries your target audience uses. Keywords are important to users searching for products and services because they help them find exactly what they’re looking for.
On the other hand, keywords are important to businesses as well because they help target the users that are most likely to purchase their products and services. When you enter a query into Google like “zipline adventures in Brazil,” the websites that target this keyword and ones like it will appear in search results. If you were to tweak that search query in the slightest, you’d get different search results.
For example, check out the search results for the query “zipline adventures in Brazil.” Then check out the results for the query “all-day zipline adventures in Brazil.” The first query returns video results at the top of the SERP, and the second query returns results that direct you to a website. Keywords are what allow users to find the content on your site. A major part of search engine optimization (SEO) is including the keywords that your target audience uses directly into the content you generate.
Keywords are important to your SEO strategy because search engines use keywords to determine how relevant your content is to search queries. In other words, if you include relevant keywords in your content, you’ll show up in your audience’s search results. The more you narrow in on a target audience using keywords, the more that you’ll find the users that are likely to convert into customers.
Keep reading to learn more about the types of keywords and how to use them in your content to target your most qualified audience.
Types of keywords
Next, let’s look at some different types of keywords people search online. Keywords come in three categories describing the kind of keyword and two categories describing the length of keywords. Kinds of keywords:
- Informational: Keywords meant to gain understanding. (“What are ziplines?”)
- Navigational: Keywords meant to find a brand, product, or service. (“Best zipline tour company near me”)
- Transactional: Keywords meant to help make a transaction. (“Zipline tours under $200”)
Lengths of keywords:
- Short tail keywords: Keywords that are short (one to three words long), broad, and competitive to rank for in search results. (“Ziplines”)
- Long-tail keywords: Keywords that are longer, more specific, and less competitive to rank for in search results. (“What should I wear for ziplining?”)
8 keyword research tips to skyrocket your SEO
Now that you understand what keywords are and the various types of keywords, let’s look at eight keyword research tips you can start using today!
1. Identify your audience
When you start researching keywords, keep your audience in mind. To get started, you can create marketing personas to represent ideal customers — people you want to buy your products or services. Here’s an example:
- Name – John H.
- Age: 26
- Personal Life: 3 years married relationship, enjoys spending money on tech and high adventure activities
- Experience: ~6 years working in computer software
- Education: Bachelor’s in Computer Science
- Job: Computer Software Engineer
As you study the types of people who read your content or purchase your products and services, you’ll start to notice trends in their demographics. By putting a name and a face to those trends, you’ll have a better understanding of who you’re targeting, as well as the keywords they search. That means understanding what kind of questions they have and what kind of things they want to know so you can better generate content that is valuable to them.
You do this by researching search intent.
2. Understand search intent
Understanding search intent, also known as user intent, is the trick to performing quality keyword research. It used to be a little-known trick that could help your page beat the crowd, but now it’s required to rank even for more obscure keywords. Here’s a little example to help you see what I mean.
Let’s say that as you’re preparing for your grand zipline adventure, you looked up the keyword “zipline” on Google to find zipline tours based in Europe. You see results for local zipline tours, zipline equipment, and a business called Zipline, a medical delivery drone company — not quite the type of zipline that you thought, right? To fix that, you look up the keyword, “zipline tours Europe.” You see that all the results are about all the fun zipline tours around Europe.
This keyword worked much better than “zipline” because it was more specific. It showed better what you meant when you typed it. That’s what search intent is.
All the top SEOs in the industry know that Google is building search results around search intent. Google wants to give users the information they want, and because Google has made leaps and bounds in understanding search intent, SEOs no longer need to stuff keywords into the content. What is more effective, when it comes to ranking for keywords, is to focus on the user intent behind the keywords — the ideas and information they’re looking for when they type in a keyword.
Developing a general theme for your content helps match your target audience’s intent. How you’re searching for these keywords should be broken down into topics or themes.
3. Focus on a theme
By focusing less on individual keywords and more on an idea when you create content — one that addresses your audience’s needs and questions — you’ll start naturally including keywords in your content that are related to your target keyword. Start by targeting one keyword for your content. In essence, your target keyword should be your content distilled into one idea.
If you are writing an article about what kind of zip line brakes to use for your backyard zipline, your target keyword might be “best zipline brakes.” The idea of the best zipline brakes would be your theme.
4. Make a keyword list
After you’ve got a theme in mind, you can start researching more keywords that match your target keyword’s search intent. When you choose keywords, think about how they would be relevant to your audience. Try to see them from their perspective.
If you were them, what would you like to see? Other keywords you could use with “best zipline brakes” might be “zipline gravity brake,” “zipline bungee brake kit,” or “magnetic zipline brake.” In your content, you could make sections about the pros and cons of each type of brake. By researching related keywords and including them as topics in your content, you are optimizing your content to rank for each of those contents.
You’ll make it more likely that your content reaches the people you want it to. Start by making a keyword list:
- Look up your target keyword on Google and see what the related searches are.
- Check the People Also Ask section on the search page and try to answer the relevant ones in your content.
- Ask your company’s service department what types of questions your customers are asking.
- See what keywords you already rank for.
- Check how your competitor is ranking for those and similar keywords.
- Hit seasonal trends for different locations.
- Mix short-tail terms and long-tail keywords.
5. Use keyword tools
Keyword tools are the best way to help you find relevant keywords. We put together a list of 7 keyword tools in the video below.
One of the easiest tools to use for keyword research is Google Search.
When you type a search query into the search bar, Google will pull up keywords that it considers related. Make sure that you’ve properly researched the user intent behind your target keyword. If the user intent is different from what you expected, then the related keywords will likely be different as well (just like with our “zipline” keyword pulling up medical drones).
Google also has a free tool called Google Keyword Planner, which will split suggested keywords into groups. However, much of the data Google Keyword planner shows is geared toward researching keywords for paid advertising campaigns on Google Ads. This is one of the best tools when searching for keywords.
Great keyword tools like these (also free to use) are better at helping you conduct the more in-depth keyword research that you want for marketing, blogging, and SEO:
- KeywordsFX: KeywordsFX is WebFX’s proprietary tool that gives you a long list of related keywords, questions with your keyword and even modifiers.
- io: Uses Google Autosuggest to generate over 750 long-tail keywords for every search query which boasts a reliability rate of 99.99%.
- Answer the Public: Shows your related keywords in both a visualization format and a list format, breaking the keywords into groups by format. And frankly, the visualization looks really cool.
Of course, you’ll need to use some discretion when using any keywords found with a keyword research tool. It’s up to you to decide if the related keywords are relevant to your content.
6. Conquer long-tail keywords
Remember that long-tail keywords show your audience’s intent better than head terms? Remember also how they are also less competitive? Well, that means the best way to boost traffic to your page is to target long-tail keywords.
What those statistics mean is that there are a lot of long-tail searches going on. In other words, you will always rank higher on long-tail keywords, and the majority of your traffic will come from long-tail searches. Even better, that traffic will be exactly the type of traffic you want.
The people coming to your page will be the ones that want your content and your information and are the type of people that is most likely to become your leads. They’ll be the ones signing up for your email newsletters and calling you and purchasing your services. Targeting long-tail keywords will bring more and better traffic, which means higher conversion rates without having to hash it out in a big free-for-all with everyone else for those highly competitive head terms.
As a bonus, your long-tail keywords already contain your head terms, so better yet, you’re still targeting those head terms when you hit your long-tails, and you’re not even putting any extra effort into it. So, if you were to optimize your content for anything, chase after those long-tails.
7. Research voice search keywords
Where do long-tails pop up? Well, recently, they’ve been showing themselves like crazy in voice searches. Why voice searches?
That’s because voice searches have a strong tendency to be conversational. Users ask questions in voice searches — “What are the best zipline tours in Europe?” rather than “ziplines Europe,” for example. You guessed it.
Those conversational phrases are long-tail keywords. With 97% of voice answers ranking in the top 10 and the more than 1 billion voice searches that occur each month, that’s a lot of long-tails. Keyword research for voice searches works very similarly to regular keyword research.
- Who, what, when, where, which, how, why
- Is, was, are, will
- Do, can, should, have, does
An easy way to conduct these searches is to use the asterisk wildcard in the Google Search bar. Simply type in the question word followed by an asterisk and your target head term:
- how * zipline
The asterisk tells Google that there can be any number of words in between “how” and “zipline.” As a last tip for keywords for voice search, don’t forget about including local keywords, because more than 55% of users find local businesses through voice search.
8. Target niche topics and trending keywords
Building a successful brand is all about finding a niche. Take a look at Zipline, that medical delivery drone company we talked about earlier. They have a very narrow niche — they make delivery drones specifically for medical supplies.
Companies with a narrow niche like zipline function are the answers to long-tail keywords. If you have a niche, you can answer the search intent of your target audience much better and companies with a broader focus. Once you have your niche, you can start targeting your niche topics.
And because they are niche, they’ll be easier to rank for. You’ll build up a rapport with your audience, and they’ll turn into a loyal customer base. Stay up-to-date within your niche.
Trending information and new updates are the perfect way to send people to your site. By targeting trending keywords with Google Search Trends, you’ll be able to show off your authority and expertise within your niche.
How to do keyword research – final tidbits
So, what’s the point of researching keywords? Researching keywords will make you visible. With content optimized for keywords that have quality keyword research put into them, you’ll be showing up right where you want to be on the SERPs that matter most.
That means more traffic to your site and the kind of traffic you want.
- More traffic that reads to the bottom of the page.
- More people that sign up for your email list or newsletter.
- Traffic that hits the call button or the buy button.
- Traffic that leads to conversions because you are giving them exactly what they want.
And, researching keywords helps you get to know that traffic. It enables you to understand what your users care about and what topics they find popular or exciting. And if a trend comes that your audience is all for, keyword research will make you a leading figure for that trend.
Knowing how to search for keywords is an important part of your keyword research. Without the right terms, your list won’t be effective!
Level up your keyword research with WebFX
We at WebFX know how to do keyword research that can boost leads. As the best SEO company, we have generated 4.6 million leads for our clients in the last five years. Contact us online or call us at 888-601-5359 to see how we can help your business transform into a brand!