Keyword Research

Beginner's Guide to SEO

Chapter 2

Keyword Research

What is your target market searching for?

So by now, we hope that you’ve learned some new terms and have some basic understanding of how SEO works. We’ll be going into how to how to pick keywords that you should focus to rank high for, and that will get you the traffic you want. 

A lot of the time, keyword research starts with getting a better understanding of who your target market is and how they will search for your content. The goal is to not only end up with users on your web page but then have them convert into leads. 

Some of the questions we have to start off with are:

  • What is your target market searching for?
  • How many people are searching? 
  • How do they want this information they’re searching for displayed? (text, infographics, video, etc.)?

What we want to make sure you leave this chapter with are tools and strategies for answering these questions and how to build strong content from the answers.

Ask the right questions

In order to really get the most out of SEO, you have to make sure you understand who your business is, who your target market is, and what are your goals?

Note: This is a crucial planning step, that is often bypassed. Spend the time to do your research. You’ll thank yourself later.

What you think you should rank for and what your target market actually is searching for are often two very different sets of keywords. This is why keyword research is a very important step of SEO. You can get yourself to the top of SERPs, and find out that all of your work was completely useless.

Let’s give an example. Eric & Kev’s (a Milwaukee-based, 100% plant-based, vegan burger shop) is ready to give SEO a try and wants help improving how often they show up on organic search results. In order to help them, it’s crucial to understand a little more about their target market. Here are some questions you might ask in order to so:

  • What type of burgers, side, snacks, etc. are people searching for? 
    • Are there any seasonal trends throughout the year?
  • Who is searching for these terms? 
  • How are they searching for burgers?
    • What keywords are they using?
    • What questions are they asking?
    • Are they using mobile devices? Or maybe smart home devices?
  • How do they want your information displayed?
    • Do searchers want to see a Google My Business listing or Yelp?
  • Where is your target market located? 

These are the type of crucial questions you must ask during your keyword planning stages to help you craft the correct type of content.

What terms are people searching for?

This probably isn’t your mission statement, but more about how your audience is searching for your product or service. Answering this question is the next step in the keyword research process. 

Discover keywords

Chances are you have a few keywords in mind that you think you’d like to rank for by now. Things like your products, services, or whatever it is that your small business does. These are a great place to start, but you won’t know for sure what are good terms to rank for until you do some research. You can use a keyword research tool to discover things like average monthly search volume, similar keyword phrases, and a bunch of other things around those keywords.

We’ll dive into more details about search volume in the next section, but during this discovery phase, it’s important to know that a keyword with more search volume usually has a higher chance of more visitors to your website.

Let’s dive into a different example… A chiropractor.

Using the keyword research tool to analyze keywords like “chiropractor” and “adjustment” you’re going to see some other great ideas like:

  • Chiropractic care benefits
  • Chiropractic care during pregnancy
  • Are chiropractic adjustments safe?

While you’re using the keyword research tool, you’ll probably find out that the search volume of those keywords is going to vary. Even though one keyword has a higher search volume, it may not be the best option for you. With higher search volume comes more people trying to rank for the same keyword, and these keywords may not be what generates leads for you either. You may get some new ideas about how specific you can be. We’ll dive more into this soon too.

Diversify

Something that is important to note is that web pages rank for keywords, websites do not. Small businesses realistically aren’t going to be ranking for as many keywords as big brands, which is why it’s important to diversify your website’s pages and create each page with the goal of rankings for different keywords.

Keyword metrics

In the older times of SEO, content creators did keyword research to find the keywords with the highest search volumes only. Then they would cram them into content that didn’t fit naturally to trick the search engine algorithms to get high rankings in SERPs. This is a term we learned in Chapter 1, called Black Hat SEO, and doing this in today’s world will get your web page potentially removed from SERPs.

Google RankBrain

Google RankBrain is a component of Google’s algorithm based on artificial intelligence. It uses machine learning (the ability of machines to teach themselves from data inputs) to help Google understand the intent behind the search query and deliver the most relevant search results.

So what does all of this mean to you? It means you have to not only create relevant content, but that content has to rank for keywords that are realistic for your web page authority (we’ll learn about web page authority in Chapter 4) and also have high search volume.

Unfortunately, it’s not always an easy task to find that balance, and this leads us perfectly into our next subject.

Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are keywords that are more of a phrase than just a single keyword. They are trying to rank for much more specific searches people will be conducting but usually yield less search volume. Even though long-tail keywords may have lower search volumes, they are the keywords that represent the real opportunity for you.

While ranking #1 for the keyword “burger” may sound like an awesome strategy, we have a nice pretty graph to make you think otherwise. 

Visitors who find you via long-tail keywords are more likely to engage with your content and are much more likely to convert. With searchers getting smarter and savvier, long-tail keywords are what make up for a majority of search engine queries today. 

As you can see in the above graph, long-tail keywords often don’t have a lot of search volume, but don’t underestimate their engagements. Someone searching for “burgers” may just be browsing the web for information about burgers or trying to figure out what a burger is, while someone searching for “best vegan burgers near me” sounds hungry and ready to take action!

Long-Tail Keywords Tip

Something even more awesome about long-tail keywords is that they give you the chance to rank for multiple keywords. A keyword term like, “best vegan burgers near me” may also rank for things like “best vegan food” or “best vegan restaurants” as well.

How to plan keywords by search volume

So we’ve mentioned search volume quite a few times now. To recap, the higher volume a given keyword or phrase has, the more work is usually required to rank highly for those keywords or phrases. This is usually referred to as keyword difficulty and this metric incorporates what are called “SERP features.”

SERP features pop up when you search for certain things like, “restaurants near me”. The SERP feature that comes up with this search is usually a Google Map with a few of the most fitted restaurants near you. A few more SERP features could be NFL standings, the weather, or a recipe.

What that means is if a keyword or phrase has a bunch of SERP features, the difficulty for said keyword will increase because they take up a large amount of real estate on the SERP.

Note: Big brands often take up a majority of top results for high-volume keywords, so if you’re trying to go to war for a keyword like “shoes” it may be a near-impossible battle.

Keyword difficulty 

Once you find keywords you want to rank for, you’ll need to evaluate if it’s worth it to try and go after them. In the keyword planner tool mentioned earlier, you’ll notice something called SEO Difficulty or “SD”, and is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. How difficult it will be to rank for a specific keyword or phrase based on the competition and available real estate on SERPs.

Search intent

SERP analysis is another important part of keyword research. It helps you decide if:

  1. You are able to compete with the websites on the 1st SERP
  2. The search intent behind the keywords you want to rank for 

By checking out the SERP you can see what the intention is behind the user’s search and how the search engines are ranking this type of content. There are a bunch of possible search types, but let’s take a close look at five major categories of search intent: 

  1. Informational – search for general information “how to ride a bike”
  2. Navigational – search for a specific website or brand “Google Analytics”
  3. Transactional – search to buy something online “buy Trek bicycle”
  4. Commercial – search to do research before purchase “Trek bicycle review”
  5. Local – search to find something locally “best vegan burger near me”

Figuring out which searches you want to rank for is another key piece of the puzzle, and as we mentioned before, a majority of searches are long-tail keywords, so make sure to check out SERPs during your research.

Tools for keyword research and planning

There are many keyword tools out there, but here are the ones we’ve found that have the most value:

Ubersuggest – This is our favorite keyword planning tool we’ve been referring back to during this chapter. Ubersuggest shows you search volume, SEO difficulty, keyword ideas, content ideas, and a bunch of other things, all with an intuitive interface. 

Google Keyword Planner – Google’s very own keyword planner has been the most straightforward, common starting point for SEO keyword research for quite some time. Although, we feel like other tools are a little more user-friendly, especially for beginners. 

Google Trends – Another Google tool that is incredibly powerful especially for figuring out seasonal keyword fluctuations and helps you plan in advance for those. 

Moz Keyword Explorer – If you mention Moz to anyone in the SEO space, they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about. Moz is another company with a historically good track record with Google and everything SEO related. A very credible resource. 

A lot of these tools offer very similar services so it’s really up to you to find out which keyword research tools work best for you.

Now you have the perfect keywords and are ready to rank on the first SERP! Let’s dive into Chapter 3: On-Page SEO

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What’s that word mean?

If you run into any words that you’re having trouble with during this guide remember to check our SEO Glossary!

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