With internet users carrying out over 8.5 billion searches every day on Google alone (that’s 99,000 every second), every business needs to be well represented online in order to be found in appropriate queries, particularly above competitors’ listings.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is now a mainstream marketing activity and a critical area to strategize in order to gain competitive advantage. One area of focus within this wider aspect of marketing is SEO keyword research – and here we’re going to tell you all you need to know about it.
What is SEO Keyword Research?
Keyword Research is the process of identifying, analysing and understanding the search terms that users type into search engines relevant to a business’s products or services.
If a business is able to understand how their target audience searches for products, services or brands appropriate to their sector, they can target these queries and gain the necessary comprehension around their usage, popularity and ranking difficulty in order to use them successfully.
It is worth noting that SEO keywords do not just necessarily comprise of single words but also phrases, questions or word combinations that may be entered into a search engine.
Why Do We Do SEO Keyword Research?
While businesses may have a rough idea of what they think internet users input to search for queries relevant to them, human behaviour online rarely mirrors exactly what is expected.
SEO keyword research provides tangible and genuine insight into user behaviour in order to inform content and SEO strategy.
Without properly researching keyword usage, businesses are simply making assumptions as to their marketing opportunities within search engine rankings – and can easily leave gaps in their SEO efforts in which the competition can thrive.
Why Keywords Are Important To SEO
SEO keywords form the actual queries that users enter into search engines and so give the best possible indication of what target audiences are looking to find and will find useful.
Understanding exactly what queries are used has multiple benefits for an organisation.
Marketers who conduct effective SEO keyword research are able to keep abreast of marketing trends and shifts in online user behaviour, allowing them to tailor their content and strategies to fit and ensure they’re always right where they need to be within SEO rankings. In turn, this leads to increased traffic to the domain and online presence, and ultimately, lead generation and customer acquisition.
In comprehending the questions users ask of their search engines, marketers and webmasters can ensure they’re able to answer these on their site and as a result receive the traffic from these users as they search out whatever it is they’re looking for.
While the inclusion of keywords within website copy used to be very much the main SEO focus of digital marketers, today it forms just part of wider SEO strategies. However, it is arguably a more comprehensive exercise to tailor content and marketing efforts accordingly – as user behaviour moves away from the simple typing of a few related single words and further into full phrases, questions and brand references.
The way people interact with their devices is now more involved than ever and marketers must understand and work with this for the best possible results.
Why is SEO Keyword Research the Second Step, and Not the First in the Woya SEO Process?
In order for marketers and webmasters to best understand how to formulate their SEO strategy, they must first have an idea of the current performance of their website: what works and holds the interest and engagement of users, what doesn’t, what can be improved to better meet users’ needs, and how it is that users find them in the first place.
This is why website analysis forms the first step in the SEO process, to provide the foundation from which all other SEO efforts can work.
Understanding search intent
Search intent, or user intent, is the intention behind an individual making a query on a search engine. This uncovers what it is they hope to achieve by completing the search. There are four main types of search intent:
- Navigational Intent – users are looking for a specific website or page, i.e. ‘tails.com’ or ‘Facebook login’
- Informational Intent – users are looking for more information on a certain topic, i.e. ‘what is a durian fruit?’ or ‘orange marks on elm tree’
- Transactional Intent – users are looking to complete a specific action, i.e. ‘buy Game Of Thrones DVD’ or ‘fill in school registration form’
- Commercial Intent – users are looking to complete some research before making a purchase decision, i.e. ‘best SUV for families’ or ‘hotels in Newquay reviews’.
Once the intent behind searches being made is understood, content and pages can be tailored to meet each, providing a useful site that meets the user’s requirements.
Seed keywords are fairly generic words or phrases that often act as the initial query in a search.
These can be used as the gateway enquiry that a brand uses in its SEO keyword research, from which to identify more specific related terms.
For example, for a business selling baby clothes online, seed keywords for its website would be generic terms such as ‘babygros’, ‘sleepsuits’, ‘baby sleep bag’ and ‘newborn clothes’.
When initiating a keyword research project, seed keywords can be input into a research tool from which to generate other, more particular, terms. More specific queries will offer a more tailored search experience, be cheaper to work with and will be more likely to drive conversions from visitors.
Long-tail keywords are specific search terms that demonstrate a user is looking for something specific from their query. These search terms are used less frequently than more generic seed keywords, but are easier to target.
For example, if a business sells baby clothes online, long-tail keywords for its website would be specific queries such as ‘buy blue sleepsuit 3-6m’, ‘best baby sleep bags for newborns’, and ‘spiderman Babygro tiny baby size’.
Long-tail keywords demonstrate search intent easily and so organisations can swiftly and effectively target these searches to meet the user’s needs and drive conversions.
Keyword Difficulty and Competitiveness
Keyword difficulty is the process in which a keyword research tool grades the difficulty it takes to rank for a set search term.
This grade is made based on a number of different factors including the competitiveness of those already attempting to rank for the term, the content quality on the site attempting to rank for it and the overall domain authority of the website attempting to rank for it.
Understanding keyword difficulty allows businesses to prioritise their efforts on search terms for which they stand a realistic chance of ranking and therefore driving conversions, so they may avoid investing unnecessarily on generic keywords for which they will rarely be seen.
Unfortunately, keyword difficulty grades vary hugely in their calculation criteria and display ranking based on the SEO keyword research tool presenting them. This can cause inconsistencies in SEO strategy and so it is always recommended that organisations work with a specialist agency when embarking on this part of keyword research.
Search Volume Analysis
The SEO metric of keyword search volume indicates how many times per month a stipulated keyword or term is searched for, on average.
This usually refers to Google but can also be analysed for other major search engines. This average likely varies between months of the year, based on regional, seasonal and thematic fluctuations.
These metrics usually pop up when a marketer is crafting a paid-for search engine marketing campaign, as the price they can expect to pay per click (PPC) will depend on how popular the keyword is. Balanced with other metrics, it can generally be expected that those keywords searched often are more expensive to work with than those not.
Analysing SEO keyword search volume allows organisations to understand which terms they should be prioritising for use.
Keyword opportunity is a Google KPI that analyses the potential for improvement in search rankings. Comparing current rankings to Google’s estimated search traffic volume, opportunities can be identified and efforts required to achieve rankings assessed.
Keyword opportunity can also determine the website’s current traffic share; although it should be noted that this is estimated.
The term keyword relevance refers to how appropriate a search engine finds a keyword (or set of keywords) to a website’s content.
Judging what a website is about through its content’s topics, the search engine’s algorithm is able to determine how best to rank web pages when a relevant search query is made.
Keyword relevance used to be judged purely on the prevalence of relevant keywords within a site’s content, but today there are a wide variety of factors at play to determine appropriateness – and so it is not necessary to have an exact match between the search query and the text on a website.
SEO Keyword Research Tools
Keyword research tools are software tools that automate the research of relevant keywords to a seed keyword.
This presents a range of topic ideas for content through related keywords and phrases, and can be split by search engine to further appropriate targeting. From here, organisations can target their content strategy to fit the queries being made.
There are a number of online SEO keyword research tools that offer free versions, including Semrush, Ahrefs and Moz, as well as a number of tools offered by Google itself.
The difficulty most organisations find in the navigation of keyword research tools is that their metrics vary and can be tricky to ascertain tangible insights from. This is why many choosing to invest properly in their SEO strategy work with specialist agencies rather than relying on free software tools.
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), is a mathematical practice that classifies and retrieves information – and is used by search engines.
Through a process called Singular Value Decomposition (SVD), the search engine scans through unstructured data to identify any relationships between terms and the context within which they appear.
LSI allows search engines to better judge what it is that users are really searching for without getting hung up on the specific individual meaning of words. A common example for explaining LSI is the product ‘silly string’. While neither of these words would be relevant individually, combined they refer to a specific item.
LSI is critical in keyword research in order for both search engines and marketers alike to best understand user behaviour when making queries online.
Analysing Click-Through Potential
Click through rates (CTRs) determine the performance of keyword usage and ads.
To calculate the CTR = the number of clicks received divided by the number of times it has been seen: clicks divided by impressions.
Through comprehensive keyword research, marketers are able to understand the average CTR for their industry and can identify areas for improvement in their own.
Updating Keyword Research
Keyword research is not a ‘one-and-done’ activity, but instead should be completed periodically in order to gather insights.
As industries and businesses change, so too do the search queries used to find them. In addition, emerging terms in language can be identified for content tailoring and changes in user behaviour can be monitored and worked with.
Keeping on top of SEO keyword research allows businesses to adapt and overcome challenges as they arise and identify areas for potential and growth ahead of the competition, gaining in traffic, leads and sales.
How SEO Experts Woya Digital Can Help
Working through our SEO marketing success strategy with a bespoke approach to fit every organisation’s idiosyncrasies online, we guarantee success and growth digitally – surpassing expectations to rank above the competition and grow the bottom line.