How to search for keywords
Now that you understand the purpose of keyword research, you’re ready to get started. Here is a process you can use to identify a list of key terms to target in your blog posts, web pages, and marketing materials.
1. Make a list of broad topics relevant to your business
In this first step, you want to create a spreadsheet with general categories or “buckets” for your keywords. These might correspond to product categories. If you already blog frequently, you may have some topics you already cover regularly.
Keep this list short and simple, with 5 to 10 topics at the most. It can be helpful to imagine you’re a buyer searching for your product or service.
General categories for a website that sells natural and environmentally friendly products might include:
- Healthy environment
- Natural health
- Nontoxic home cleaning
- Natural beauty
- Healthy cooking
- Natural pet health
2. Expand each topic with a list of phrases you think your customers use
Identify the terms or phrases your target customer might use to locate information, products, or services within each of your general categories.
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 example of the environmentally friendly website 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. They may have some great insights and ideas.
There are 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.
Check the search engine results page (SERP) for your most desired search terms. If it’s filled with solid brand names that have more influence and market share than your company does (at the moment), go back and refine your list with long-tail keywords.
The one exception to this strategy is if your competitors haven’t been publishing quality content. If you know you can outdo their content in length, quality, and layout, then you may be able to outrank them even if they spend more money marketing their brand.
6. Verify search intent
When a consumer enters a search query into Google, they are on a quest for something. Every question needs a matching answer.
Make sure you understand your customers’ intent by typing your keyword phrase into the search engine. What pages already rank for that phrase and what do they offer?
If a buyer is looking for information and you try to sell to them, you may get a click, but they’ll bounce quickly, which will hurt your ranking. If a shopper is ready to buy and you deliver a product page, they’ll be happy.
Make a note in your spreadsheet about the buyer intent for each keyword phrase, or establish a habit for you or your team to check keyword intent before creating content using that keyword or phrase.