The Ultimate 17-Step Keyword Research Process
A lot more goes into keyword research, and there is no right or wrong answer. Most people doing keyword research don’t go beyond typing your brand name or product into a keyword research tool and have it generate a list for you.
Why should you spend time on keyword research? If you plan on using tools and automating your keyword process, and not stopping to think exactly how it will impact your effort, wait a few months of little to no results.
Successful businesses and marketers follow a process when going about keyword research. The time spent on researching can help save months and years of payroll, budget, and traffic.
My keyword research process has evolved since I’m experimenting with rapid SEO and the content marketing approach, along with social media-focused keyword implementation, to formulate an all-in-one digital marketing strategy. You’ll have your hands full, but the work you put in will surpass others. So, let’s look at the best keyword research process in 18 steps:
1. Themes and Structure
The first thing that you need to do before you begin your keyword research is creating a number of themes around which you will categorize your keywords. Since you may end up with many keywords, it is very important to have them organized into different categories and topics.
Examples would be:
- Search key terms
- FAQ style
- Based on local monthly search
- Related keywords
- Long tail keywords
- Social keyword importance
- Quora keywords
- Customer keyword patterns
- Mistyped keywords
As we continue the steps, you’ll learn why I’ve added a few examples that are not typically in your keyword research. Throughout the steps, you’ll learn multiple ways to find keywords that are on-demand to help you grow.
2. Brainstorming Your Keyword Ideas
If you have a product that you are selling or a service that you are offering, you can begin your keyword research via brainstorming. To do this, make guesses at keywords that people are likely to use when searching for your products or services. If you are selling iPhone accessories, for instance, open a text file or excel spreadsheet and begin to type keywords that come to mind. What are some keywords that have to do with iPhone accessories?
- iPhone accessories in San Diego
- Affordable iPhone accessories in San Diego
- iPhone repair in San Diego
You can use the WooRank Keyword Tool to help extract any keywords that are already associated with your site. You can start brainstorming ideas on surrounding alternative keyword suggestions based on your current association with the keywords.
Keyword tools can help reduce the time it takes for you to think about keywords and help automate the process. I prefer using both brainstorming plus tools to help me be better at finding keywords and boost my creativity. Some tools that I use include:
Google’s auto-suggest is one of my favorite ways to help me brainstorm some related keywords. However, the most important part is to actually use your brain to think of keywords instead using keyword research tools to compile a bunch of useless keywords. It pays to be human.
3. Think About the Customer’s Needs or Wants
People look for solutions online. One way to do keyword research is to use the keywords from your brainstorming session to phrase questions that people are likely to key in in search queries. A good example here would be, “Where can I find an iPhone repair shop in San Diego?” Write or type as many questions as possible.
If your site has customer support, go through the tickets and see what your customers are currently asking. The best idea is when your customers are telling you what you’re missing out on!
You’ll want to understand your customer’s journey. If you only focus on finding a certain amount of keyword search volume, you might notice few keyword volumes decreasing. Your customer’s search might be based on trend or a transition to an actual keyword they were looking for.
4. Narrow Down To Your Customer Persona
If you do not currently have traffic, customers or enough data to do your research, niche marketing and personas are the way to go. If you have not yet developed your customer persona, that should be your first priority when doing keyword research. Not only will it help target your traffic audience, you’ll generate your keyword research down to the tee.
- What would they search for?
- What do they already know?
- What language are they likely to use?
- Where are they located?
- How would they find you?
- Why would they buy from you?
- When is the best time they’ll most likely view your site? Are they stay-at-home parents, businessman/woman, DIYers, agencies, CEOs.
After asking those questions, phrase some questions that your ideal customer is likely to ask. W.I.T.F.M (What’s in it for me) Is the best way to understand your customers and help them find value with your product or services. When asking “Why would they buy from me”, you’ll want to start going through a list of keywords that would attract your potential customers.
5. Talk To Your Customers
Knowing what words your customers use when they reach out to you is vital to staying alive. Your keyword research might have been your understanding of what your customers might want. When you go through your tickets, comments, feedback from your customers, collecting their specific terminology will help you identify what keywords they are likely to use. Knowing how they got to your site and re-engineering that specific strategy will help duplicate that success. Create an excel sheet with all the keywords you can collect from all your customers and that can help you gain an immense amount of success.
6. Look Around You
Do you know your competitors? If so, visit their sites and look out for their page titles. If they are all the same, that word or phrase is likely to be a search term. Add it to your list of keywords.
Using a tool like SpyFu.com can help you understand just how many organic keywords your competitors has already focused on, and what keywords they are outperforming and underperforming with. Adding your competitors to your WooRank Projects and tracking keywords in Keyword Tool will help you keep track of your performance and your competitors.
If my competitor is ranking for 1,000+ organic keywords, you’ll definitely want to go through their articles. Read them and take notes of how you would rank each content or implement a keyword. The more competitors you have, the better chance you will not make the mistakes they’ve made. The more data (competitors) you have, the more you can implement more action plan.
Let the race begin!
7. Get To Know The Keywords That You Are Likely To Rank For
You can use the WooRank Keyword Tool to help extract any keywords that are already associated with your site. You can start brainstorming ideas on surrounding alternative keyword suggestions based on your current association with those keywords.
You can also sync your Google Search Console with your WooRank Project to see your site’s top search queries:
Learning from your current strategy, or from the previous implementation, you can observe as if you can hear your site’s heart beat. The data that you have and what you see every day is like an organism growing and maturing. It’s up to you to collect the data and see how everything is working. If you focused on low-hanging fruit keywords, how has it evolved? What is your action plan to increase momentum? Look at the keywords you are still not ranking for: what have you missed? Go back to your strategies, content and descriptions to see what you can do.
8. Participate In Communities
Participating in communities like Quora and Reddit, is a must no matter what people tell you. It will help you understand people’s concerns and their unmet needs. Literally, thousands of questions are being asked and the potential is based on your effort to fill their needs. Once you adapt to Quora and Reddit to your SEO, you can then craft your keywords around the same based on their questions and answers. If, for instance, you do a quick search on iPhone accessories and find that people are complaining about expensive iPhone cases, you can craft keywords around that. You can also work in your marketing effort to answer questions!
9. Do Social Listening On Social Media
Social listening on social media should be the next thing that you do. Key in your brand name or a related keyword in the search query button on social media. Go through the conversations surrounding your brand or niche. Sometimes people vent on social media when they are frustrated. They also share their good experiences. Craft your keywords around these conversations.
If you are using Twitter, you can filter out the noise and add two or three hashtags to locate niche traffic. You can use tools like Hashtagify.me to help connect Twitter’s data and connect the dots (hashtags) to find relevant Tweets.
You can also use Mention and monitor your brand, competitors, keywords and go through them to generate ideas. Make sure you filter each keyword otherwise you’ll end up receiving tons of mention and make it useless.
10. Get A Conversation Going
Sometimes when people do not know a product’s name, they will search for it using the descriptions that best suit them. One of the ways to get to know these keywords is to ask your potential customers. The best way is to create a point of conversation. Show them a product that they do not know and request them to search for it on a search engine. Note all these keywords. They could be very valuable and unique long-tail keywords.
Surveys can also help you find the keywords that your potential customers use to find your product or service on Google. Use a tool like Google Surveys or Survey Monkey. Surveys are good sources of long tail keywords which could be a gold mine. According to Google’s John Wiley, every day, 15% of the questions that people ask Google have never been seen before. You can also implement Hotjar feedback poll for your keyword validation process. Any tool that can interact with your customers or prospect and collect data, you’ll want to closely observe the response. Using specific keywords to help with validating what copy brings the best result can help you determine your growth with those keywords. Call this “Use what you currently have” strategy.
12. Answer The Public
Answer the Public is actually the name of a website. It is not really a keyword generation tool. What you do on this site is key in your keyword and click “get questions”. The site generates keywords based on your search query in alphabetical order. A keyword like “iPhone accessories” resulted in some interesting keywords like “iPhone accessories for a car” and “iPhone accessories gifts”. While this can be listed as “Brainstorming” process, you can also use this tool to help with the validation process. What have you missed? What other keywords do you think is important to rank for?
13. Consider The Topics That You Could Cover
By now, you probably have a very long list of keywords. Some of the keywords that you may have gathered through methods like discussion forums and social media listening may be unique and you can easily rank for them. They, however, may have very low search volumes. The best thing to do is combine these keywords and create content around the topic. There should be a balance between long-tail keywords and high volume keywords. Once you’ve implemented low volume plus long-tail keyword content, you’ll want to target high volume keywords. There is no rules or structure you can follow, you can easily implement the 80/20 rule, 2 high volume keywords for every 8 low volume keywords. I’ve actually implemented this strategy and tested it to see if it make sense.
14. Research Search Volume
Combining several keyword volume research tools can be time-consuming but also helps eliminate some keywords. Do you know if one tool is providing accurate data? What if one source provides different data than the other? I call this the average down phase to help determine if a keyword is worth ranking for.
15. Test Your Keywords For Relevance
Google displays results that are relevant to a search query, from its own viewpoint. To determine whether Google considers your keyword relevant to search queries, key in your keyword and look at the top 10 results. Do the sites match your keyword intent? What niche are they in? Is it the same niche that you are in? You are likely to rank higher among sites in your own niche. If you have followed the few steps I’ve recommended, you should not have this issue since our process did involved niche targeting.
16. Test Your Domain Authority
Domain authority will determine how well you rank. If you key in a particular keyword and all the big brands show up, your chances of ranking for that keyword are pretty slim. You are better off trying a different niche or topic. If you key in a search query and most of the results are from discussion forums, then you need to focus on that keyword. There is probably very little content around the same, and you have a high chance of ranking high with that keyword.
17. Determine Your Keyword Intent
Keywords do not always mean what they seem to. Be very keen on things that do not add up. For instance, listings usually mean job listings rather than company listings.
When it comes to keyword research, it’s vital to see what’s working and what is not. Using the A.P.I.E method (Analyze, Plan, Implement, and Evaluate) will help you constantly improve your keyword research approach, determine what is being successful and learn how to duplicate the process.
Once you’ve analyzed the keyword research process, you can set up a plan of action, such as the 80/20 rule of ranking 2 high volume keyword for every 8 low volume keyword. You will then implement the process with each page, content to help rank for each specific keyword. You can add those keywords on your WooRank Keyword Tool and receive your Weekly Digest every week to evaluate your performances.
You’ll need to rotate and analyze your rankings, plan to make changes or stay the course, implement if need be and continue to evaluate your ranking.