One essential element of SEO is keyword research. It’s the cornerstone of high-quality, relevant content and a primary driver of online visibility. In this blog post, we’ll delve into keyword research and how you can leverage it to enhance your SEO.
What Is Keyword Research?
Keyword research involves identifying words and phrases people enter into search engines like Google, Yahoo, or Bing. These are keywords are those which describe your products, services, or general content topics, which may seem obvious, but effective keyword research may reveal that they are not as obvious as you think.
Keyword research serves as a compass for your content strategy and SEO plan. It helps you understand what topics your target audience cares about and how they search for information online. By incorporating these keywords into your website content, you’re effectively speaking the language of your audience and signaling to search engines that your content is relevant.
Does Keyword Research Really Matter?
I like to share a quick anecdote about the early days of HDTV sales in the United States to illustrate the importance of understanding your keywords and honing in on opportunities presented by long-tail keywords.
In the mid-aughts, as sales of high-definition televisions to the average American consumer started to take off, television brands crafted and honed their marketing positions. Most focused on their retail strategies, finding the right alignment with big-box retailers that would lead to sales.
Many brands were scared off of spending big money on digital marketing for two reasons: 1) at the time, the consumer was not super-eager to purchase a high-definition television online and felt they needed the consultative assistance that came with the in-store experience, and 2) brands saw how much Sony was spending to rank #1 for “HDTV,” “high-definition television,” and related common keywords. I read once estimate that Sony was paying as much as $40 per click on the “HDTV” search term.
Vizio, which was founded in 2002, was eager and scrappy. Knowing they would never be able out-bid Sony for those major terms and their brand was not strong enough to persuade retailers to give them prominent shelf space, Vizio discovered a backdoor to visibility with the American consumer: long-tail search terms.
Rather than focus on the high-priced terms Sony was dominating, Vizio honed in on terms like “best HDTV for playing XBox” and “high definition television for sports,” often as a laughable 1/20th the cost of Sony’s campaign.
Largely thanks to that early success driven by effective keyword research, Vizio is now the #2 (or #3, depending who you trust) HDTV brand in the United States – one spot higher than Sony.
How to Conduct Keyword Research: A Step-By-Step Guide
- Identify Your Niche Topics: Start by brainstorming broad topics relevant to your business. For example, if you own a fitness gear store, potential topics could be “home gym equipment,” “fitness trackers,” “yoga mats,” and “hydration packs.”
- Generate Keyword Ideas: Based on your niche topics, create a list of potential keywords. Continuing the fitness store example, you might consider “best fitness trackers,” “yoga mats for beginners,” and “hydration packs for hiking.”
- Use Keyword Research Tools: Tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, SEMRush, Ahrefs, or Moz can help you expand your list of keywords and provide information about search volume (how often a term is searched), keyword difficulty (how hard it will be to rank for a term), and more.
- Consider Search Intent: Not all searches are created equal. Someone searching “how to choose a fitness tracker” is likely at a different stage of their buying journey than someone searching “buy fitness tracker online.” It’s essential to understand and cater to this search intent.
- Analyze Your Competition: Look at the keywords your competitors are targeting. Can you compete for the same keywords, or are there gaps in their strategy you could exploit? Tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs can help you with competitor analysis.
- Prioritize Your Keywords: Based on the data from your keyword research tools, prioritize your keywords. Consider factors like search volume, keyword difficulty, your website’s current ranking for the keyword, and relevance to your business.
Implementing Keywords in Your Content
Once you have your keywords, you need to incorporate them into your content which is a significant focus of our on-page SEO guide. But here are some simple practices to get started:
- Title Tags: Make sure your primary keyword appears in your page’s title tag. This tag is the clickable headline that appears on SERPs and is a significant ranking factor.
- Meta Descriptions: While not a direct ranking factor, meta descriptions can influence click-through rates. Ensure your meta description summarizes the page’s content effectively and includes your primary keyword.
- URLs: Keep your URLs simple and keyword-rich. A good URL provides both users and search engines with a clear indication of what the page will be about.
- Content: Integrate your keywords naturally within your content. Avoid keyword stuffing, as this can lead to penalties from search engines. Instead, focus on writing high-quality, informative content that uses keywords in context.
- Alt Text for Images: Search engines cannot ‘see’ images. Instead, they read the alt text. By including your keyword in the image’s alt text, you can boost your SEO.
- Internal and External Links: Use your keywords in the anchor text of your internal and external links when relevant. This can help search engines understand what the linked page is about.