Keyword research

 

Keyword research is the first step of any SEO strategy and it is essential to understand which and how many contents make sense to create in order to position yourself on the most interesting topics for your online business. Yes, because before working on your website’s content, you need to discover which search terms are used by your audience. These terms are your keywords, and based on them, you can start creating and publishing useful and high-quality content. At AvantGrade, we have been working on keywords for years and always propose a keyword research as an indispensable pillar to build an excellent SEO strategy.

banner keyword research avantgrade

Have you never approached keyword research? Don’t worry, with the following guide you can better understand what it is and how Keyword Research works. Let’s start!

 

What is Keyword Research?

 

Keyword Research, which translates to “keyword research“, is a part of a broader SEO strategy (Search Engine Optimization, search engine optimization). It involves the activities necessary to develop a comprehensive list of keywords for which one would like to rank a given website or individual pages.

To obtain this list, one needs to explore their target audience and how this audience uses search engines: what terms do people type into Google when they are looking for specific products, services, activities, and topics? And what do they expect to find? With this list in hand, website owners can create content to attract high-quality traffic.

Keyword research is never finished: repeating it regularly is essential to stay updated! Without Keyword Research, one might “get lost” in their jargon and end up being “overshadowed” by giants in their sector.

Why is keyword research so important?

 

A well-conducted keyword research is important because it clearly establishes the search terms used by your audience. It often happens that companies, for instance, use certain words to describe their products, while their target audience uses completely different ones.

The disastrous consequence is that potential customers do not find those websites precisely due to the mismatch in the use of keywords. Another situation closely tied to keyword research is when a company launches a new product with a very original name.

From a marketing perspective, this choice is spot on, as the product could “stand out” from the competition and be remembered more easily. Selling sports sneakers is very different from selling gym shoes, but be careful, very few people search for the keyword “sports sneakers.” If you optimize the text for this term, you might rank well on search engines, but you won’t generate much traffic and won’t reach much of your potential audience because the latter uses different words. It seems trivial, right? But it isn’t.

It’s obvious that there’s no sense in optimizing for words that people don’t use. After thorough Keyword Research, you can then use the same words as your target audience, giving your rankings a boost. Additionally, by observing the search intent behind each keyword, you will discover exactly what your audience is looking for.

All these questions posed to search engines, technically called “queries”, should be answered with quality content: among them, we obviously consider particularly in-depth and complete articles, as well as well-curated and engaging product pages, or web apps that perfectly respond to a given need (such as online service comparators).

Types of Keyword Research

 

At AvantGrade, we believe that Keyword Research not only shows the words people use on search engines but also provides an accurate snapshot of the target market you want to move into. This is why we prefer to call it Keyword and Market Research.

Keyword Research can essentially be of three types:

  • Broad-spectrum Keyword Research: this involves a comprehensive search for terms and topics, ideal for online businesses that have never conducted such an activity. The result is a usually sizable list of the most interesting keywords in terms of search volume, level of difficulty, and effort/result ratio.
  • Editorial Keyword Research: in this case, the research is aimed at producing articles or blog posts to rank for informational keywords. Often, the result of this type of investigation consists of questions that users ask search engines, for example, “How to make pizza”.
  • Targeted Keyword Research: this research revolves entirely around a macro-topic. For instance, a brand that produces phone covers wants to know all the searches related solely and exclusively to covers.

Basic concepts of Keyword Research

 

Before moving on to active keyword research, it’s useful to address some essential concepts related to Keyword Research. A keyword is the term for which you want a specific page of your site to be found on Google. By conducting keyword research, you will get a series of terms that:

  • are used by people on search engines;
  • reflect your products, services, content, and business sector.

Long-tail keywords are more specific and less searched compared to more generic terms and focus on a niche. The longer and more specific the search terms are, the easier it will be to target them with SEO, as there will be less competition.

Even if the number of people who type these terms into Google is small, they could still be more motivated to make a purchase, sign up for a service, or take an action that holds significant value for you.

Keyword Research is the first step, followed by a Keyword Strategy: this comprises the decisions made based on the previously selected keywords. Some questions that arise after keyword research are the following:

  • Which content to create first?
  • Should I focus on long-tail keywords or more generic ones?
  • How and where will I publish the new content?
  • Will it be an article, a post, or a product page?
  • Or will it be a video tutorial or an infographic?

In this phase, it is crucial to investigate the search intent: you need to discover what a person wants or actually needs. It’s not just about keywords, but about the implicit goals a user aims for: what they want to know or buy. Your content should provide a solution to the “problem.”

How to do Keyword Research?

 

There are several important steps that result in effective keyword research. Here they are, with tips and advice to achieve a useful result for your SEO.

 

  • Define your goal

 

Before starting anything, think about your goal. Ask yourself what your company’s purpose is, what makes it special, or exactly who you intend to reach. Also, what promises do you make on your website? What do you want to communicate? The advice is to take some time to literally write down your “mission.”

When you can answer these questions in detail, you have made the first and most important step in your Keyword Strategy. The market you operate in will determine if there are opportunities for success: some are highly competitive and dominated by large companies that control the search results. Usually, behind these results, there are huge budgets for marketing and, specifically, for SEO.

Competing in these markets is difficult, so ranking will be as well. Suppose you own a hotel that offers services for singles, making it perfect, for example, to meet other people or form friendships. This particular aspect might be what makes your hotel unique, distinguishing it from the competition, and it should be your goal, your niche, and you need to communicate it precisely to your target audience.

 

  • Create a list of keywords

 

The second step is to create a list of your keywords, preferably in a spreadsheet (Google Sheets or Excel). With your mission in mind, try to get into the head of your target audience. What will these people search for? What kind of terms might they use when looking for your service or product? What problems of theirs can you solve with what you offer?

Write down as many answers as possible. If your mission is clear, you will have a pretty accurate idea of your niche and your strengths—those aspects that distinguish your business from others. These are the words you need to be found for.

 

  • Research your keywords

 

After creating this initial list, it’s time to dig a little deeper into your keywords. Fortunately, there are several tools on the market that make Keyword Research a bit easier. The first is Google itself: search the keywords you’ve already defined and check Google’s suggestions as you type.

These reflect the questions people have actually asked the engine. You can also check the related searches at the bottom of Google’s results page (the SERP, Search Engine Results Page). This is an easy, quick, and fairly accurate process, especially considering that this information comes directly from Google.

There are also other paid SEO tools on the market, offering advanced keyword research features along with other services. Using these tools, you will get various keyword variants, synonyms, and more or less related terms. Add everything to your list.

 

  • Don’t forget the long tail

 

When starting Keyword Research, people often tend to focus on highly searched terms. Unfortunately, these keywords are mainly occupied by the large companies mentioned earlier. Long-tail keywords bring less search traffic, it’s true, but with much less competition: on paper, it is easier to rank in the SERP.

Moreover, long-tail keywords usually have a higher conversion rate as they focus more closely on a specific product or topic. A long-tail keyword is generally more targeted than a short-tail keyword.

For example, “eyeshadows” is a short-tail keyword (very short), while “metallic mineral eyeshadows” is a long-tail keyword. Don’t forget to also add these long-tail keywords to your spreadsheet. Enter the more generic terms in the first column and add additional columns for long-tail keywords. This will help you later create a site structure: the longer the keyword, the deeper the corresponding page should be published in the site hierarchy.

 

  • Analyze the competition

 

The choice of long-tail keywords largely depends on the competition. If competition in your niche is high, you will struggle to rank for high-traffic generic terms. If you encounter little competition, you will also be able to rank for short-tail keywords. Therefore, you should do some benchmarks and SEO checks after your Keyword Research.

Search Google for the keywords that emerged from the research, starting with the shortest tail term. Look at the search engine results page: the websites you see are the ones you will compete with after optimizing your content for that keyword.

At this point, check better: do you see professional websites? Corporate websites? Do you fall into these categories? Is your site similar to those in the SERP? Does your company have comparable size and influence in your niche? It is generally more difficult to rank when competing with very solid brand websites.

If these brands are recognized through TV or radio ads, then your chances of ranking at the higher spots of the SERP decrease even more. What you can do—and it is very useful—is take a look at their content. Ask yourself: is it well written and optimized? If the competition has really poor content—often those working with “strong” brands think they can neglect this aspect—you might have the opportunity to surpass them with excellent SEO.

To give yourself an idea, you can also look at the ads on Google related to your keywords. Are they there? If the answer is yes, then from your Google Ads account you can check the cost-per-click (or pay-per-click, PPC): search terms with high pay-per-click are generally more difficult to tackle in organic results. Finally, make sure you take notes in your spreadsheet on the results of your keyword investigation.

 

  • Take a deep look at search intent

 

A good SEO strategy today should revolve around: answering the questions people ask search engines and providing the best solution to their “problem” or need.

Every time a user uses a search engine, they are hunting for something, and every type of question needs a specific answer. Try to discover the intent of your audience when they type a particular keyword into Google. The possibilities are three:

  1. Informational intent (informational keywords): users expect information on a specific topic
  2. Navigational intent (navigational keywords): users want to access a specific website
  3. Transactional intent (transactional keywords): users want to buy something

You can learn more about the search intent of certain keywords by carefully observing the types of pages that rank best for those keywords. Do you see product pages? Do you see many informational articles? Do you see videos or images? Or do you see a mix of all this? Well, these SERPs are all hints on what Google assumes is the search intent associated with a particular keyword.

Discover which types of intent apply to your keywords and, again, add the results to your spreadsheet.

 

  • Also choose “support” keywords

 

Many site owners choose to optimize content for terms closely related to what they sell. This is a serious mistake or rather, a waste of resources and energy for two simple reasons:

  • product keywords are generally super competitive;
  • there are thousands of other keywords your potential customers search for when they are not looking for what you sell.

In essence, if you can reach your audience with high-quality content, it is very likely they will return to you to buy what you offer even if it is not exactly what they first came into contact with.

For example, for an agency like ours that sells SEO and digital marketing training, it is important to rank for terms that our potential clients search for when they are not looking for the courses we sell. Keywords like digital training, “link-building” or “seo on amazon” are just as important as “SEO training”.

These “support” keywords are not directly related to what you sell, but they are words that your customers search for and for this reason, it makes a lot of sense to organically target them.

  • Decide on a Keyword Strategy

 

Based on the data collected so far, you can define your keyword strategy. If you have followed all the previous steps, you should have a spreadsheet with a good amount of keywords, the search intent of your audience for each of them, and information about the competition.

Now ask yourself this question: how does my site compare to those present in the SERP? If you have similar size and marketing budget, then proceed and focus on high-traffic keywords. Otherwise, start with more long-tail keywords. Remember that working on a lot of long-tail keywords can still attract a substantial amount of traffic.

Once you have ranked for those long-tail keywords, targeting more generic and short-tail terms will be somewhat easier. Well, you have chosen the topics, now think about the type of content: what is the search intent of your keywords? What is your audience looking for? And moreover, what content is not yet available that you can create, and how can you differentiate in terms of quality or proposed solutions? It is important to ask these questions to decide on what type of content to work on.

Tips for Your Keyword Research

 

What has been written so far might seem quite simple, but we know it translates to a lot of work and energy. When you embark on your research, you may encounter some problems or questions. Here are some tips to make everything run smoothly.

One Keyword and Its Synonyms Require Only One Page

 

In the past, each keyword you wanted to be found for had to have its own landing page. Fortunately, today search engines are intelligent enough to primarily use search intent to provide users with the best answers to their queries. The page that answers best will thus rank at the top.

Search engines also understand subtle differences between keywords, so it is no longer necessary to create landing pages for all variations, such as synonyms, of a specific keyword.

This does not mean you should not use synonyms, on the contrary! Synonyms can improve the readability of your text and make it more natural and enjoyable to read. By using related terms and correlations, you will also help Google better understand the topic you are discussing.

Use a Keyword Only Once

 

The exact keyword you intend to focus on should not be used more than once. If you do not follow this, your ranking could suffer due to so-called “keyword cannibalization“. Google struggles to distinguish between very similar content and might position similar posts or pages poorly.

Have you discovered that you have already used the same or very similar keywords or phrases on various posts and pages? Our advice is to review your content and merge/delete/redirect some of them.

Check the Results for Singular and Plural Keywords

 

Should you target the singular or plural keyword? Well, it depends on the search. Google is learning more about the search intent of your keyword and is able to better meet the need associated with it.

For example, if you search for the word “chair,” you get a different result compared to “chairs.” Google thinks that in the first case you are looking for images of a chair, while in the second case it believes that you intend to buy chairs (from a store near you). Make sure you know what you offer on your page and that it precisely matches the query and the results that Google provides for that keyword.

Check the results for singular and plural keywords

 

Should you target the singular or plural keyword? Well, it depends on the search. Google is learning more about the search intent of your keyword and is better able to meet the need associated with it.

For example, if you search for the word “chair,” you get a different result than if you search for “chairs.” Google thinks that in the first case you are looking for images of a chair, while in the second case it believes you intend to buy chairs (in a store near you). Make sure you know what you offer on your page and that it matches precisely the query and the results Google provides for that keyword.

Prioritize your keyword list

 

How many keywords should you have? There’s no exact number, but we can tell you that you need more than you think. Maybe a few thousand are too many, but avoidance of generalization is key! Even if you are a small business, you will likely end up with at least a few hundred keywords. Remember that you don’t need to create pages for all these terms right away, but you can add content gradually. Think about which keywords you want to rank for today and which ones you can wait to address; set priorities and plan your content creation accordingly.

How to Do a Quick Keyword Research for Single Content Pieces

 

In an ideal world, after doing your Keyword Research and your spreadsheet of words, you would start creating optimized pages for each term. Your site’s structure would be impeccable, and you would publish content every day, climbing up Google’s rankings. But let’s get back to the real world.

Keyword research will never be all-encompassing, and some articles will not be written because they are part of a well-thought-out strategy, but simply because the topic is trending or particularly inspired you. This is completely normal and not necessarily a problem. If you are writing something that doesn’t exactly fit into your strategy, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to optimize it.

You could use it to target words related to those in your existing list. Use the mentioned tools and Google Trends to quickly verify the keyword for which you want to rank. If you can, take some time to think about how to adapt the article to your strategy; if you are writing valuable content, you certainly expect it to rank (and be read).

Conclusions

 

Keyword research should be the start of any SEO strategy. The result will be a long list of keywords you want to be found for, but the hardest part comes next: writing all that content.

For the best results, you should write articles and posts on every single keyword you want to rank for on the search engines: it’s a truly challenging task, but our SEO agency can help you. Contact us and we will lift your website to the top on Google (and beyond)!

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