Keyword research is arguably one of, if not the most important aspect of any SEO campaign: if you don’t target the right keywords, your SEO campaigns won’t be effective, period. Follow this guide to advanced keyword research to build your strategy.
Since SEO is often a long-term effort that can take months and even years before you see significant results, ensuring you are targeting the right keywords from the get-go is very important to ensure you are not wasting your time and resources.
The secret of proper keyword research is about understanding your target audience: what they are searching for, what kinds of information they are looking for, what problems they are currently facing (and their solutions), and how they are learning about new products and services.
Here we will discuss how we should approach keyword research in 2020, and by the end, you can use this to ensure you are targeting the right keywords in your SEO strategy.
The Importance of Keyword Research
Here is the deal, SEO has dramatically evolved in the past decade, and some SEO practitioners may argue that keywords are no longer important. Google is indeed getting better at understanding the context of a web page and so, it can technically rank a web page for a certain keyword even when it didn’t include this keyword at all.
From the days Google Rankbrain in 2015 and now BERT, the latest AI algorithm update implemented in October 2019, is actually focused on understanding context. But you still need advanced keyword research and not only a keyword but also a topic optimisation strategy.
However, keyword research is still important, not only in improving your SEO results but also to understand the search intent behind any query. Understanding the intent behind search queries is important for at least three reasons:
- What these keywords are actually about (the context and meaning)
- How important and relevant these queries are to your business (whether it’s worth pursuing)
- How you should develop content to answer this intent of each query
So, keyword research will actually help you in developing better content to cater to a specific audience, and the relevance of your content is still the secret of any SEO successes.
The importance of keyword research hasn’t changed, but it is true that how we should use the keywords in SEO practice has changed. We can no longer stuff the target keyword in a single page (keyword stuffing) and hope for success, but it’s now about how the content can satisfy the intent behind the query.
With that being said, keyword research is not only useful in ensuring an optimal content creation process, but also in product/service development, website design, UI, and so on.
The Main Principles of Keyword Research
Again, keyword research is about understanding your audience, and in general, there are three main rules to follow:
- The keyword should be relevant and valuable for your target audience. This is mainly measured via monthly search volume (the number of searches in any given month).
- The keyword must be relevant for your company or brand. It’s important to note that not all keywords that are popular with your audience are relevant for your brand, and you’d have to carefully distinguish them.
- Depending on your SEO project’s timeline and budget, the competition for the keyword must be manageable. If the competition for a popular keyword is too tight and too expensive, probably it’s better to look elsewhere.
- And in 2020 how does the coronavirus pandemic impacts your business and your market. Keyword metrics and strategy must take this into account.
Advanced Keyword Research SEO Tips
Here are some tips on how you should do keyword research based on the three golden rules above:
- Initial Brainstorming
No matter how good the SEO tools and keyword research tools are, they are not yet perfect in understanding the relationships and context between all the different keywords. This is where our human common sense is required.
For example, the word “player” can have different meanings whether we are talking about sports, video games, or dating, and the SEO tools might be confused in figuring out the context of just a single word.
So, the first step in SEO keyword analysis is to brainstorm (on your own or with your team) and build a rough draft of your initial keyword list. Then you can use your keyword research tools to add other metrics. Based on the three rules we have discussed above, try to list the following things in building your initial list:
- The keyword itself
- Search volume
- Keyword difficulty (if provided by your keyword research tool)
- CPC (Cost-Per-Click) for the keyword on Google Ads
- Your site’s current rank for the keyword
Our advice is to consider the following factors in finding your target keywords:
- Your (or your client’s) business objectives
- Whether your business/website traffic is seasonal (i.e. products that are often bought during Christmas holidays)
- Whether you are going to launch a new product/service or type of content in the future
- List of your target audiences and their behaviors, pain points, and needs
- List of your main competitors
- Your geo-location if you are a local business
If necessary conduct surveys and interviews to your team members and potential customers. Try to understand your customers’ and prospects’ intent in visiting your site and consuming your content.
- Research Related Search Queries
Based on the keyword list you’ve built above, you can go to Google and input each keyword you’ve collected into the search bar. Google will suggest related search terms before you hit enter that are related to your original input. Even if you might not be able to use these suggestions right away, they might provide some inspirations for other keywords.
Also, you can scroll through the first two pages of the SERPs for each of your keywords, and check whether there are common occurrences of other phrases or even important industry terms, you can add them to your list.
Some additional tips to consider here:
- Don’t forget your audience search intent when considering these related keywords. People can use similar keywords to look for different things, and these suggested keyword variations might have a different intent.
- While researching the SERP, take notes of the type and quality of content that ranks high. Remember that these are going to be your competitors in pursuing these keywords
- Important Keyword Research Metrics
How should we value and prioritize the target keywords we’ve listed above? The answer is by evaluating various metrics related to the keyword’s performance. Again, all of these metrics should be based on the three golden rules we have discussed further above:
- Search volume: The most important metric in keyword research, but it’s important to note that you can’t judge the value of a keyword based on search volume alone. Search volume shows how many times people search for this keyword on Google measured every month.
- Click volume: also important, the number of times people click the result after searching for a keyword. This is important in this age of featured snippets and zero-click results, you’d want to target keywords with high click volume so they actually visit your website (organic traffic).
- Organic traffic potential: check the top-ranking pages for a keyword and measure the search traffic they generate in total. This can show you the true value of the keyword. Remember that a single keyword can have a lot of synonyms that can be directed to this single page.
- Keyword difficulty: how competitive a target keyword is. That is how hard it will be for your site to trank for this keyword. Some keyword research tools can show this metric based on analyzing various other metrics.
- Extra: what is the impact of coronavirus on keywords metrics and volumes on YOY analysis.
However, it’s important to note that although a keyword might have a fairly high keyword difficulty, there’s a possibility that it’s still worth pursuing based on the other metrics measured above.
- Competitor’s Keyword Analysis
The competitor’s keyword analysis is very important for several reasons, especially to find keyword gaps. A keyword gap is any keyword that your competitor has ranked for but your site hasn’t, and so they can be valuable opportunities.
Researching keyword gaps is also an effective approach if you are working in new or unfamiliar niches (i.e. if you are handling new clients). Competitive research can be the best approach to check what your competitors are ranking for and you can also target these similar keywords.
If you are doing competitive keyword analysis in a niche you are familiar with, you should:
- Check how relevant the keywords are for your business
- Check how high the competition is ranking for this particular keyword
- Check the competitor’s approach for the content
- Check the competitors’ backlinks (link profile) and also the anchor texts for these backlinks
While keyword optimizations are no longer very important in SEO compared to a decade ago, it’s not saying that keyword research and keyword analysis have lost their importance. Keyword research is especially very important in understanding the audience’s intent behind this keyword, and this information will significantly help you build a content marketing strategy, as well as other important aspects of your company including product development and even branding direction.
Above, we have shared the important principles of keyword research in 2020, as well as some important keyword analysis techniques you should implement. And 2020 being the special year that it is, you must consider how the coronavirus pandemic impacts your business and your market. Keyword metrics and strategy must take this into account to figure out viability and threats compared to the past but also and to finish on a positive note, what opportunities for growth and adaptation there are.