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The aim of keyword research is to uncover the words and phrases most commonly used by your audience to find your site. Because the process seeks to identify keywords with high search volume and low competition, research is a vital component of your overall SEO strategy. Get it right and you’ll be rewarded with increased visibility, site traffic and, ultimately, more business.

Unfortunately, many of us associate keyword research with days spent messing with spreadsheets, copying and pasting, repetitive strain injury and boredom. So, to protect you from any possible side effects we’re going to be providing you with an introduction to keywords, explaining why you need them and how to quickly generate keyword ideas for your site and blogs.

Welcome to keyword research the easy way.

What are keywords?

Keywords are single words or phrases that define the content of a web page. Keywords make it easier for both the user and search engines to quickly identify what your page content is all about, making them vital to the success of your page.

There are two types of keywords

  1. Head keywords (sometimes also known as short-tail keywords) are short phrases made up of one or two words e.g. ‘car’ or ‘men’s fashion’. Because these terms are vague, monthly search volume is generally very high. But so, too, is the competition. It can be very difficult to rank highly for these search terms because you’re normally competing with well-established sites with high page and authority.

  2. Long tail keywords are phrases made up of 3 or more words like ‘where to buy a used car’. They’re more specific than head key terms meaning they have fewer monthly searches but also less competition. However, because they relate better to search intent, they generally have a better chance of converting, which is why it’s best to focus your efforts on finding popular long tail terms that are highly relevant to your site.

Why do we need keywords?

Keywords help search engines see content on a page as relevant to a user’s query. When a user searches for a keyword or phrase, search engines will examine your pages to identify matching keywords and will serve pages most closely related to the search term first.

Important disclaimer: This is a very simplified explanation of how keywords work. There are hundreds of factors, called ranking signals, that search engines analyze to determine where your site should rank for specific keywords. Factors including backlinks, site speed, usability and other technical elements all play a huge role that shouldn’t be downplayed in any way.

It’s no good just including your keywords in your content. They need to be included in other prominent places on your page that are seen by both user and search engines. These include:

  • Title tag
  • Meta descriptions
  • H1 tag (one per page)
  • H2-h6 tags
  • URL

When it comes to page content, you should use your primary keyword in the first paragraph, the body and towards the end and minimum of three times. Don’t overdo it though, or search engines might regard this as keyword stuffing which can have a negative impact on rank.

How to do easy keyword research

Generating ideas

Whether you’re optimizing your existing content, creating a new website or looking for keywords for new pages, the first step is to identify appropriate search terms.

1. Look at the competition

Looking at the keywords your competitors’ use is a really easy way of generating ideas. The benefits are:

  1. It’s likely your competitors have already done a lot of research into the best keywords that relate to your industry, products and services - meaning you don’t have to.

  2. Knowing what keywords your competitors are using is vital if you want to compete for the same audience’s attention.

  3. If you have no idea where to begin then this option is the easiest way to begin compiling a list.

Choose a competitor that you know has a good website and ranks highly on Google. Using Google AdWord’s Keyword Planner select the ‘Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category’ option.

Google AdWords keywordPlanner

Enter your competitor’s URL and take a look at the results.

Once you’ve got your ideas you can add all keywords or specific keywords to the plan which can be later downloaded as a spreadsheet. Repeat the process with other competitors to find the commonly used keywords.

Alternatively, you can try a tool like Spyfu to investigate what search terms your competitors are using. Use the tool to take an in-depth look at the top ranking organic keywords, with clicks per month.

Find competitor keywords with Spyfu

Spyfu is also useful if you don’t know who your competitors are. Type in your own URL and it will recommend competitors based on keywords that you may already be ranking for.

2. Use your site

Take a look at your site and make a note of the following:

  • Products
  • Services
  • Locations you serve
  • The things that make you unique.

Use these as your ‘foundation’ keywords and expand on these.

Enter keywords into a free tool like Ubersuggest to get a list of related search terms.

Ubersuggest keyword suggestions

From here you can select keywords, download them and even look at the data from Google Trends to see how they perform over 12 months.

3. Finding keywords for articles

Researching keywords for your content can be highly beneficial as it not only informs you about competitive search terms to increase your chances of being found but also helps formulate content ideas.

KeywordTool.io gives you keyword and questions ideas formulated around your foundation search term.

KeywordTool.io keyword suggestions

The paid version of Keyword Tool is quite an expensive subscription but unlike other tools, it doesn’t rely on data from Google Keyword Planner. It, therefore, offers alternative and unique search terms and that are ‘hidden by Google Keyword Planner’. Because it works differently it boasts some great features, making it a worthy investment.

  • Finds unique, popular keywords that are low in competition

  • Uses autocomplete for a single search query

  • Looks for keywords specific to an online platform such as Amazon, YouTube Google and Bing

  • Provides accurate monthly search volume

Answer the Public is a good, free alternative for discovering keyword ideas for blogs. By entering a keyword it displays tons of questions that have been asked by the public and allows you to view results visually, by prepositions, or alphabetically. Again, these can be exported and added to your list of keywords.

Answer the Public keyword suggestions use prepositions

4. Using Autosuggest

Google’s auto suggest is an extremely useful tool for finding alternative keywords - one that is often overlooked. Simply go to Google and begin typing your keyword. It will then suggest searches based on the search term.

Google auto suggstion

The benefit of this technique isn’t just limited to finding great long tail search terms; they are often search terms packed with search intent. This means that users are looking for specific solutions to their query; whether it’s where to buy a product or to get detailed information, these keywords tend to be highly profitable in term of click throughs.

You can also use the ‘related searches’ at the bottom of SERPs to get further suggestions.

Google related searches at the bottom of SERP

Refining your list

Once you’ve generated a healthy list of keywords you can begin refining them. The aim of this stage is to weed out any keywords that aren’t worth targeting. This is normally words that will be difficult to rank highly for (words with high competition) and any words with low monthly search volume.

If you’re already a WooRank user then you’re in luck. You can simply upload a list of keywords to the Keyword Tool and have it accurately assess the search volume for each of your search terms.

WooRank Keyword Tool data

Remove any with low search volume and then go back to Google Keyword Planner to assess the competition. Note that Keyword Planner’s competition data is based on average CPC, but you can bet if people are bidding highly on a term, people are also targeting it with SEO.

Defining your list of keywords is not necessarily quick but it is easy, especially if you opt or a tool like KeyWord Finder. This tool will show you all relevant metrics, including trend, volume, cost per click and difficulty. As an extra bonus, it will also detail which sites are currently ranking for the keyword - showing their position, domain and page authority, the number of backlinks and social shares.

Keyword Finder SEO dashboard

Wrapping up

Keyword research is a vital process for identifying how to target to your customers and which search terms are going to be worthy of your time and further investment.

Keyword research isn’t the most exciting task and can seem be a little overwhelming. Use our tips above to make the keyword research process a little easier and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can put together a comprehensive list of search terms.

Using them correctly and you’ll soon see your efforts rewarded with increased traffic that is more likely to convert.