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If your site ranks highly for specific keywords but you’re still not seeing the fruits of your labor, You may not be targeting ‘good’ keywords.

I know what you’re thinking. Is there really such a thing as good keywords? Well, actually, yes!

There really isn’t much point in occupying the top spot for search terms that are only being searched for three times a month, is there? Keyword research is, therefore, a vital process in discovering which keywords you should be targeting.

If you’re still not convinced that keyword research is important or relevant to SEO today then read on to find *why *keyword research is so important and how it can benefit your overall marketing strategy.

What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is a process of investigation and refinement. The aim of keyword research is not only to identify keywords that relate to your business and target audiences, but also to find ‘good’ keywords that are going to bring you plenty of traffic and not too much stiff competition.

Why is Keyword Research So Important?

1. Find keywords with high search volume

I’ve been talking a lot about ‘good’ keywords and one way this can be defined is by assessing how many people search for a term. This is universally measured by average monthly volume or AMV.

Let’s use a hypothetical site that offers dog training and care. Our site may rank well for the keyword ‘training dogs’ which receives 250 searches/month. Compare this to the term ‘dog training’ which receives 6,000 monthly searches and it’s easy to see why keyword research is important.

Search volume windows in Keyword Planner

The more people that search for a term, the more likely it is that your site will be seen. If your site ranks well for search terms with a high search volume it’s likely that your site traffic will increase.

Use AdWord’s Keyword Planner tool to assess the search volume for each of your keywords. Although the tool is free to use it will only give you data ranges if you aren’t already paying above a certain amount for AdWord (PPC) campaigns.

2. Find keywords with low competition

When researching keywords it is important to assess how much competition exists. When using Google Keyword Planner competition is measured by

‘the number of advertisers that showed on each keyword relative to all keywords across Google.’

This metric is specific to both location and Search Network that you have specified and competition is rated as low, medium or high. Although the competition level for each keyword is based on the number of advertisers bidding on keywords it can provide a good indication of how much general competition exists i.e. the number of sites targeting those keywords.

The aim is to find keywords with medium or low competition.

Keyword competition in Keyword Planner

You can find more information about Google’s metrics and search volume statistics here.

3. Assess the difficulty to rank

Although looking at the ‘competition’ of a keyword in GKP is useful for a quick idea of the competition, it doesn’t really provide us with the whole story. There would be little point in targeting keywords if the likelihood of your site ranking highly for those keywords is to next to impossible. This is known as keyword or SEO difficulty.

KWFinder refers to this as SEO difficulty and measures this based on the following SEO factors belonging to the sites already ranking for those keywords:

  1. Authority & Trust: The topical authority and trust your domain and pages have accumulated is a major factor in determining Google search rankings.
  2. Backlinks: the number of external links passing link juice to that site (links without the nofollow attribute)
  3. Facebook shares: The number of Facebook shares for the URL targeting the same keyword.

Keyword difficulty in KWFinder

Keywords with a difficulty rating of 0-9 are regarded as effortless and keywords with a difficulty of 50 or more are classed as hard or impossible. Essentially, if you find keywords that are already being targeted by high-quality domains that receive a lot of traffic, like Wiki or Amazon, we’d recommend opting for less competitive keywords.

4. Understand what you’re competing against

When assessing keyword difficulty it can also be useful to examine who appears in SERPs and in what format. Like KWFinder, Ahrefs keyword tool also shows keyword difficulty by assessing Domain Rank, Page or URL Rank, and backlinks. However, with Ahrefs you can also view what type of results exist in SERPs.

For the search term ‘house training a puppy’, we can see that there is a featured snippet, 2 AdWords and a related question that appear before all organic searches.

Ahrefs keyword tool

With keyword research, it’s easy to decipher if it’s worth targeting a keyword. If your site will only appear half way down the first page of Google despite being in pole position, is there much point? Ahrefs helps to make judging this a little easier and I would add that if a keyword has low difficulty, moderate search volume and low competition then it’s always going to be worth it, as people generally trust organic searches.

5. Find keywords with high conversion rates

Keyword difficulty can also be an indication that a keyword is too broad. Typically, the shorter a keyword the more difficult it is going to be to rank for, and the higher the competition. These keywords are known as ‘head’ keywords.

  • Head Keywords: Contain 1-2 words are very broad generally have high monthly search volume, high competition and high keyword difficulty.
  • Long tail keywords: **Contain 3 or more words. Because these are more specific, they a higher rate of conversion and CTR.

The benefits of finding long tail keyword are:

  1. Less competition: Long tail keywords should be specific to the services and products you offer, which means there will be less competition.
  2. Better targeted: If your long tail keywords are very specific these search terms will have a better chance of targeting visitors. The better a phrase describes something the more relevant it will be to your visitor.
  3. Search intent: Long tail keywords are better at fulfilling search intent and can, therefore, attract highly relevant traffic.

6. Scope the competition

When researching keywords for clients, one of the first things I do is take a look at their competition. Spying on the competition allows for a better understanding of what keywords they’re targeting, which can help to understand who they are targeting as well as what they are offering.

Their keywords can also give you a valuable insight into their approach. It may also give you an indication of the content that they are creating. So use this knowledge to build your own content strategy. Don’t just copy what they are doing but look to improve or update the information that they have supplied or simply use this information to inspire your own thoughts for content.

7. Get ideas for your content strategy

Embarking on keyword research can inspire ideas for great content. If you’re looking at optimising your landing pages don’t dismiss keywords that aren’t relevant. Instead keep a record of great keywords that you come across and use it to build a content strategy.

8. Find new keywords

This might seem like an obvious point, but sometimes it can be hard to know what search terms your audience uses. If you’re having a complete mind blank, or you’re working on a site that isn’t familiar to you, keyword research can be a good way of generating ideas. There are a couple of ways to do this:

  1. Use your own site: Look at the products and services and use these as seed keywords. Type them into your favorite keyword tool to generate a list of related search terms. Google’s Keyword tool will even group suggestions AdWords group ideas. Simple!
  2. Use competitor’s site: You can also type in your competitor’s URL to find search terms on their site.

Once you’ve got a list of ideas you can begin refining your list by removing some of the keywords with low monthly search volume and high competition.

9. Understand trends

Understanding when people are searching for keywords is also useful for determining when to publish a blog or update your website. Use Google trends to get an overview of peak times.

Google Trends keyword research

Unsurprisingly, the trend for this search term peaks just after Christmas, presumably this is the time of year to give dogs to loved ones.

Use this information to establish a plan for publishing content or making changes to your website.

Finishing Up

Keyword research isn’t just about finding words that your audience may be searching for, but more about finding quality keywords that are going to make a positive impact on your site.

If you’re keywords aren’t bringing in more traffic or converting more people (remember to use long tail search terms for this), then it might be time to conduct some proper keyword research.

You may even find out a thing or two about your competitors and even come across some awesome content ideas.

Remember, that keyword research is still important, but so is optimising your on-page content for your chosen keywords. Follow our guide to implementing your keywords for guaranteed success.