How to conduct keyword research
Now that you understand the importance of keyword research and have gotten acquainted with some of its most important terms and concepts, you are ready to get started. Follow these next steps to identify the keywords you should be targeting to attract the audience you want and create a foolproof keyword strategy.
1. Make a list of broad topics relevant to your topic
In this first step, you want to create a spreadsheet with general categories or “buckets” for the keywords you wish to rank for. These might correspond to product categories or anything you believe your target audience would be interested in. If you blog from time to time, you may already have some topics you cover regularly.
Keep this list short and simple, with 5 to 10 topics at most. It can be helpful to imagine yourself as a buyer looking for a product or service.
General categories for a website that sells natural and environmentally friendly products might include:
- Healthy environment
- Natural health
- Non toxic home cleaning
- Natural beauty
- Healthy cooking
- Natural pet health
2. Expand each topic with a list of phrases you think your customers use
Next, with these general categories at hand, it’s time to identify the terms and phrases your target customer might type into the search bar to locate information, products, or services.
If you already have data from website analytics software like Google Analytics or HubSpot’s Sources report, look through your organic search traffic bucket to identify keywords consumers already use to arrive at your website.
This is not meant to be a final list of keywords but an opportunity to brainstorm for data points to make your research more targeted and fruitful.
For the environmentally friendly website example above, under the category “Healthy environment”, you might list:
- Compare air purifiers
- Best water filters
- Aroma diffuser
- Essential oil diffuser
- Nontoxic paint supplies
- Hypoallergenic pillows
- Natural ways to reduce allergies
- How to improve indoor air
- How to use sage
Create a list under each general category and add it to your spreadsheet. Feel free to ask your co-workers or employees for ideas, especially those who are customer-facing.
There are many creative ways to add to your keyword lists.
- Search a keyword phrase in Google and scroll to the bottom of the page, where you’ll see a list of related search phrases in bold.
- For a deeper dive, click on one of the related searches and check out the list Google suggests at the bottom of that second page.
- The website AnswerThePublic allows up to 3 free searches a day. It delivers a chart of phrases people are searching for related to your topic.
- You can also type your keyword phrase into Google’s Keyword Planner or one of the paid tools listed below and see what other relevant terms people use.
4. Analyze the strength of your keywords
The easiest way to accomplish this next step is with Keyword Planner or a paid keyword research or SEO tool. Ahrefs, Semrush, Wordtracker, and Ubersuggest are some of the most popular. Wordtracker and Ubersuggest both have free versions you can use to start.
Here’s what you’re looking for when you analyze your keywords.
- What is the exact search term? Make sure your keyword phrase matches the precise search term people use.
- How high is the search volume? If no one uses a keyword phrase, it won’t do you much good to structure a strategy around it. Look for the highest search volume available.
- How steep is the competition? The paid tools differentiate between competition for paid ads versus for organic search. You want a higher search volume with lower organic search competition. That’s the sweet spot.
- Check for related terms you may have missed that have high search volume and low organic search competition.
5. Determine how you rank in your industry
If you’re competing against big brand names that already take up the first page of Google for most of the terms you’ve identified, you’ll want to alter your strategy to identify less competitive long-tail keywords.