For successful SEO, the use of effective keyword research techniques is vital. That way, you know the keywords you are targeting are the most effective ones for increasing your online visibility, growing your organic traffic, and repeatedly appearing in front of your target market.
The alternative would be to target keywords that perhaps no one is searching for, or that attract the wrong audience, or that you stand little chance of ranking for and actually attracting traffic from. And no one wants that, right?
So in this post, you’ll discover 11 effective techniques you can start employing today as part of your online marketing strategy.
Why Is Keyword Research So Important?
Creating content for your website often involves a significant investment of time, effort and other resources.
To be worthwhile, your content needs to generate a positive ROI in as short a time frame as possible. And preferably your investment will continue to pay off for a long time to come!
One of the best ways to achieve that is to create content that performs well on search, in terms of attracting an ongoing stream of traffic.
To do that, you need keyword research.
Keyword research means:
- Gaining an understanding of what keywords your target market is looking for…
- What keywords you could create content for that stand a reasonable chance of ranking high enough on search to attract people in that target market to your website.
And of course such content can also be repurposed for publication elsewhere too, giving you potentially:
- Multiple chances of ranking for the same keyword…
- Multiple listings for the same keyword (multiplying the chances of someone clicking through to your content)...
Start with the wrong keyword (or none in mind at all) and you negate all these benefits.But target the right one, and your content can put your business in front of hundreds, more likely thousands, of people in your target market for months if not years to come.
In addition, keyword research helps provide inspiration for what to create content about in the first place.
The more such research you do, the more understanding you’ll gain about the type of content that appeals to and will help attract your target audience.
11 Top Keyword Research Techniques
1. Determine Relevance
One of the first things you need to be able to do for effective keyword research is to determine the relevance of a particular keyword for your target market.
In other words, if you’re targeting a keyword that people in your target market are not even searching for, then you have a problem! You’ll be:
- Attracting people to your site that have no interest in what you sell…
- Not showing up in front of people who might otherwise be your ideal customers.
Instead, carefully consider how closely a particular keyword correlates with the products or services you provide. Two crucial questions to ask are:
- Is the keyword relevant to what your business does?
- Is the keyword relevant to what your ideal customers are searching for?
If you can answer Yes to both of these questions, you have a potential keyword. But it’s just the first step, and more than just relevance to consider… other techniques we discuss below help you assess its overall suitability.
2. Assess Intent
The ability to determine the intent behind a particular keyword is crucial for finding suitable keywords.
In other words, what is someone’s intention when searching for the keyword in question?
- Are they primarily looking for information, such as the answer to a question?
- Are they looking to navigate somewhere, such as finding a particular website?
- Do they have commercial intent, which is when someone’s search relates to brands, services or products, often as part of pre-purchase research?
- Is their intention transactional—are they ready to make a purchase?
Assessing someone’s intent behind a particular search helps you decide the value of the keyword in question to your business, and indeed the type of content that would be a good match for it.In keyword research, assessing the intent behind a keyword is crucial in finding suitable keywords and deciding their value to your business.Click To Tweet
3. Preliminary Research
If you’re brand new to researching keywords in your niche, a smart way to get started is by conducting more general, preliminary research.
This is designed to give you a broad understanding of what your target customers are searching for, in order to help guide your further research.
At this stage, focus on the main topics and themes, rather than any detailed analysis of individual keywords.
You can do this research through brainstorming, talking to customers, or using relevant software.
In the following sections, we'll delve deeper into these methods and the more advanced techniques for keyword research.
4. Internal Brainstorming
Finding relevant keywords by brainstorming, either by yourself or preferably with members of your team, is one of the simplest keyword research techniques available.
And it’s cost effective too, requiring nothing more than a piece of paper, whiteboard, or similar, and the collective knowledge, insights and experience of your team.
To get started, just think about what your prospective customers are likely to be searching for, at various stages in the buying process.
Write down all the ideas that come to mind or are suggested by others, making them visible to everyone involved in order to help trigger further ideas.
Think about all the stages in someone’s buying journey, not just the final stage when they’re ready to buy. What are people looking for information about before they’re even thinking about buying?
For example, a dental clinic selling ‘new smiles’ might think about people searching for ways to improve their confidence, to look good on camera or even how to learn public speaking. They may not even have thought about a ‘new smile’ yet, but may at some point be a prospective customer.
Don’t discard any ideas too easily.
Even those that may not seem immediately relevant can be plugged into suitable tools (see the next section) to help discover new ideas that you wouldn’t have otherwise thought of.Internal brainstorming is a cost-effective and simple technique for keyword research, utilizing the collective knowledge and experience of your team.Click To Tweet
5. Software-Assisted Brainstorming
Multiple tools are available to assist you with brainstorming more keywords, including those provided by Google itself at no cost.
The first of these is Google Autocomplete. This is built into Google’s search engine, and is what’s shown as you start to type, providing you with multiple related (and popular) searches.
Get started by simply typing in some of the keywords you found through your internal brainstorming (#4 above).
Next is Google’s related searches, which usually shows towards the bottom of the search results pages.
Drill down into any of these keywords to find even more suggestions.
Finally, Google’s Keyword Planner tool (available from within Google Ads) provides far more potential keywords, along with additional insights such as search volume.
6. Customer Research
An often (strangely) overlooked keyword research technique involves asking your customers—or otherwise ascertaining—what keywords they used in either finding your website in the first place, or when researching similar products and services.
Depending on the type of business, as well as speaking with them directly, this can be integrated into an automated onboarding process, such as an additional (optional) field in an online form.
Some will only be too happy to provide you with the relevant information.
Another important technique is to use Google Search Console, which shows you some of the keywords people are using to find your website. Watch the following video for a quick intro on setting it up (or see the full guide):
7. Supply and Demand
A key technique for effective keyword research is the ability to accurately assess the ‘supply’ versus the ‘demand’ for a particular keyword, where the:
- Supply refers to the number of web pages containing the keyword—so, the number of web pages you’d be potentially competing with to attain a high ranking position
- Demand refers to the number of searches for the keyword in question.
Essentially, these insights let you know:
- How tough it’s likely to be to rank for a particular keyword—in other words, what’s the competition like? A higher ‘supply’ means tougher competition.
- The relative size of the rewards from a prominent ranking—or, what level of traffic could it bring? More ‘demand’ equates to higher potential rewards, relative to other keywords.
So you want to aim for keywords that have moderate (or higher) rewards and without too much competition, rather than keywords with low rewards and relatively high competition levels.
Usually this means looking for long-tail keywords, which we’ll discuss more in the next section.
A full guide on how to assess demand and supply as part of keyword research for SEO can be found here.
8. Long-Tail Keywords
As just discussed, aiming for ‘long-tail’ rather than ‘short-tail’ keywords is key to avoiding higher competition levels, while benefiting from lower-but-still-reasonable rewards that stack up to mean significant traffic over time.
(Even more so when the content created for each keyword—such as a blog post—is just the first in a series of content pieces, repurposed from the original and published on different content platforms around the web. Here’s the workflow you need to achieve that effectively.)
In case you’re not yet familiar with what the term ‘long-tail keyword’ actually means, here’s a quick definition:
- A keyword like ‘keyword research’ is a short-tail keyword—it’s more broad (the intent of the searcher is less clear, e.g. are they looking for a tool to help, wondering how to do it, looking for someone to do it for them, or something else?). Generally short-tail keywords tend to be just one or two words long.
- A keyword like ‘how to do keyword research’ is a long-tail keyword—it’s a lot more specific and you know exactly what they’re looking for (i.e. some sort of guide or tutorial that guides them through the keyword research process). Long-tail keywords are generally three or more words long.
So long-tail keywords also mean you know more about the intent of the searcher.
This helps you create the exact type of content they’re looking for, with relatively high rankings and attracting highly-targeted visitors to your website on an ongoing basis.
In short, long-tail keywords that in some way relate to what your business does and reflect what your target market is likely to be searching for are the ‘diamonds in the rough’ that you are looking to find.
Each might not mean significant traffic levels on their own. But when plugged into a consistent content marketing and/or advertising strategy, their impact can be transformative.
9. Location-Specific Keywords
In a local business serving a specific geographic area?
Then it’s vital to incorporate location-specific keywords into your keyword research.
The type of keywords you’re looking for should incorporate both what your business does, and the area you serve (including relevant sub-localities).
So if you run an auto-repair shop in Boston, the keywords you target might include “auto repair Boston” or “best Boston auto repair”.
Don’t forget the non-obvious place names too. People might not just search based on the main town or city, but their suburb, county or some other location.
10. Keyword Clustering
Keyword clustering is a technique whereby similar keywords are grouped together.
For example, you might have a number of different long-tail keywords that all essentially mean something very similar, such as:
- how to do keyword research
- keyword research tutorial
- keyword research how to
- keyword research guide
By clustering groups of keywords together like this you might be able to create a single piece of content that targets all of them. One could be the primary keyword, and the others all secondary.
11. Mobile-Optimized Keywords
One final technique involves specifically looking for keywords that people are more likely to use when using mobile devices.
Research shows that almost two-thirds of all searches are now carried out on mobile.
So what does this mean in terms of the keywords you might target. The most common terms searched for on mobile devices (in conjunction with other keywords) include:
- near me
For example, opticians near me.
For successful SEO, effective keyword research is critical—otherwise you risk optimizing content for the wrong keywords that either attract the wrong type of visitor, are too challenging to rank for, or otherwise attract too little or no attention.
By incorporating most if not all of these keyword research techniques, you can improve the online visibility of your business and get in front of your target market with increasing levels of success.