Keyword Research: SEO Basics & How to Get Started

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Updated 2/16/2024

Discover how to drive quality traffic, understand user intent, and stay competitive. Find how to approach and continuously refine strategies.

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Knowing how people search and what they’re searching for is essential for any SEO and PPC strategy. Keyword research is the process of figuring that out. This quick guide covers the fundamentals.

What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is a cornerstone of digital marketing, especially in search engine optimization (SEO). It’s the art and science of discovering and analyzing words or phrases people use in search engines to find content.

Businesses can learn from this research and create content aligning with users’ needs, driving quality website traffic. Check out this quick guide for more.

The Importance of Keyword Research

Let’s examine three reasons why it’s crucial to a marketing strategy:

  1. Discovering User Intent: Keyword research is about understanding what potential customers are searching for. By knowing their queries, you can craft content that matches their intent, whether answering a question, solving a problem, or selling a product.
  2. Driving Quality Traffic: Not all website traffic is beneficial. By targeting specific keywords, you can attract genuinely interested visitors, leading to better engagement and conversion rates.
  3. Staying Competitive: Knowing which keywords your competitors are targeting (and how well they rank for them) can inform your strategy, helping you focus on terms that might give you a competitive edge.

The Keyword Research Process

Let’s break down one approach so you can get started:

1. Start with Brainstorming

Before diving into tools, write down topics relevant to your business or site. For example, if you run a pet store, think about categories like “dog food” “cat toys” or “fish tanks”.

Depending on how experienced you are and your goals, what you need to think about will change. Perhaps you already rank well for some of those terms and need to target new topics. Perhaps you have a new product that needs keyword research support. Remember your goals throughout the process, as they will inform the outcome.

2. Use Keyword Research Tools

There are numerous tools available to help refine your initial list:

  • Google Keyword Planner: A free tool that provides keyword ideas and traffic estimates.
  • Ahrefs: Offers a wide range of keyword research options, filters, and data sets.
  • Semrush: Provides extensive keyword data, including competitors’ keywords.
  • Moz Pro: Another keyword tool with full marketing campaign features. Offers relevancy metrics and multiple list options for managing data.
  • Google Search Console: Best for analyzing what keywords you’re already ranking for and how well you’re performing for them.

3. Analyze Keyword Metrics

Several metrics can guide your keyword choices:

  • Search Volume: The number of searches a keyword receives within a specific timeframe.
  • Keyword Difficulty: An estimate of how hard it would be to rank for a keyword. Not all tools (Keyword Planner) offer this, but it’s a critical metric for content marketing campaigns.
  • Cost Per Click (CPC): Useful for PPC campaigns, it indicates the keyword’s value.

4. Understand Keyword Types

There are various types of keywords, each serving a distinct purpose:

  • Short-tail Keywords: Broad terms with high search volumes, e.g., “shoes”.
  • Long-tail Keywords: More specific terms with lower search volumes, e.g., “red women’s running shoes”.
  • Transactional Keywords: Indicate an intent to purchase, e.g., “buy laptop online”.
  • Informational Keywords: Indicate a need for information, e.g., “how to bake a cake”.

Categorizing keywords in this way will help your efforts produce more effective results.

5. Refine and Implement

Once you’ve gathered a list, prioritize the keywords you’d like to target based on relevant metrics to your goals. Then, create content serving the search intent of your top keywords and incorporate them naturally into your content.

Ongoing Keyword Maintenance

Research isn’t a one-and-done task. Your strategies will need to shift periodically. Keep these in mind when revising your tactics:

  1. Monitor Performance: Regularly check how your targeted keywords are performing. Are they driving traffic? Leading to conversions? Adjust your strategy as needed.
  2. Stay Updated: Search trends change. Regularly revisiting keyword research ensures you align with user intent and market changes.
  3. Diversify Your Strategy: Avoid putting all your efforts into a few keywords. It’s essential to have a diverse keyword portfolio to mitigate risks and capture a broader audience.

Bottom Line

Keyword research isn’t just about finding high-volume search terms. It’s about understanding your audience, meeting their needs, and adapting to the ever-evolving digital landscape.

By following a systematic approach and continuously refining your strategy, you can ensure sustained visibility and relevance in search results and the digital landscape. ?

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