What is keyword researchKeyword research is a process indicating how search engine users search in their market.
Why is keyword research importantKeyword research is the backbone of the SEO strategy, essential to understand how prospects search and prioritise keywords according to volumes and strategic importance. It’s the essential part of the SEO work and typically one of the first tasks in any SEO project. But, still why is it so important?
- Keywords selected in the research will be used to optimise website content. You want to make sure that you select the right keywords as you don't want to waste time re-optimising content if you selected wrong keywords.
- Selected keywords also inform the link building strategy and you want to make sure you acquire the right links, it's very difficult to change them once acquired.
- Keyword research will provide you with tons of content ideas, and you'll need them to monopolise a certain niche if you want to become number 1 for a competitive keyword. Basically, one piece of content won't be enough to achieve it and you need to understand the whole keyword landscape.
What does the keyword research process involve
- Exploratory phase - brainstorming phase, start by studying the products, services and market to make assumptions about how people could search. Look at competitors and existing keywords that drive traffic to the site, including Paid Search campaigns (particularly the Search Term report can be useful). If you are conducting the research for another company, talk to their employees, sales and marketing staff and product owner. Include any other sources that you might think are useful.
- Data collection & grouping - in this phase the initial keyword list is further extended by the keywords collected from various tools (e.g. Google Keyword Tool) and with volumes added to each search phrase.
- Shortlist - this is where the keyword strategy is created, from the organised lists some keywords are highlighted and selected for optimisation.
- Keyword mapping - follows the shortlisting stage, but this is outside of the scope of this article and will be covered separately. In short, it's a process of deciding what keyword to use to optimise a page for, e.g. just like this page is optimised for "What is keyword research".
How is keyword research presentedKeyword research is typically presented in the form of a spreadsheet with keywords organised in keyword groups. It can also be additionally presented in the form of a mind map. This approach enables the identification of keyword hubs. Such visualisation can create the information architecture for the website and allows to spot new content opportunities.
Keyword research is essential, also for small companiesIt's recommended to conduct keyword research even for small sites and niche industries. This is the best way to avoid surprises and ensure that the optimisation goals are aligned. A well conducted keyword strategy can be valid for years and not only informs the content strategy, but also impacts internal links & link building.
Data sources - keyword researchSearch engines have become more and more restrictive about what data they share, mostly they want companies to buy paid ads, therefore you need to use and combine available data sources.
- Google Ads - particularly the search term report shows you exactly what your users searched for, including accurate indication of the volumes and conversion rates. It's often useful to run a paid search campaign even just to learn about your keywords.
- Google Keyword Tool - it's made for Google Ads, but still useful to gain a general understanding of search volumes and get new ideas, unfortunately it's not very useful for long tail searches as it mostly aggregates smaller phrases.
- Wordtracker - good alternative to Google Keyword Tool, made for SEO and will give you individual (not aggregated) keywords and many other features (e.g. YouTube and amazon keywords).
- Google Search Console - awesome source to see what you're already ranking for, including impressions and positions. Definitely the most accurate source of your current Google positioning.