Every business needs a professional website to make it in the modern world. However, simply having a website isn’t enough. Potential customers need to find your website for it to truly benefit your business. How can you get your target audience to discover your website? The first step is to target the right keywords in your website SEO. This means you’ll need to do some keyword research and have the right keyword research tools do it.

So, how do you determine the most valuable keywords for your business’ SEO strategy? Simply follow these steps: 

  1. Brainstorm a list of potential keyword ideas
  2. Analyze each keyword’s rankability
  3. Evaluate each keyword’s search intent
  4. Assess each keyword’s business potential

How to do keyword research for SEO | Initial factors to consider

So what is keyword research? And what is a keyword? Well, keywords are the search terms you type into Google. For your business website to show up on the Google SERP (search engine results page), you need to optimize your website using keywords. Keyword research is the process of brainstorming a list of potential keywords and analyzing their relevance to your business.  

The goal of quality keyword research is to identify the best keywords to improve your SEO ranking so it’s easier to be found by your target audience. In turn, a greater percentage of your website visitors will have a pre-existing interest in your business’s offerings. As a result, you’ll gain more visitors to your website and grow your business to new heights organically.

Are you ready for all that? If so, keep reading to learn exactly how to do keyword research.  

Step 1: Brainstorm some keyword ideas

You know your business better than anyone else. Thus, you can generate many valuable keyword ideas on your own. Simply put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What would they search for if they were in the market for your products or services? 

For example, if you run a hair salon in Los Angeles, your potential customers might look up the following search queries:

  • “Hair salon in LA”
  • “LA hair stylists”
  • “Best women’s hairstyles for 2020”
  • “What are the benefits of a deep conditioner”

All of these keywords demonstrate some level of interest in your products, services, or professional expertise. By referencing these keywords on your website and optimizing your website for these subjects, you will naturally attract potential customers to your website. Once they’re there, you have the opportunity to introduce them to your salon and win them over for an appointment. 

More keyword generating strategies

To expand upon your initial keyword list, try using these helpful brainstorming techniques:

  • Use Google’s autocompleting search feature – Google’s autocompleting search feature displays a list of frequently searched keywords as you type into the search bar. Start typing your topic and see what other keywords pop up. 
  • Review Google’s related searches – Once you hit “search” on a query, you can scroll down to the bottom of Google’s results page. There you will find a list of related searches. Some of these keyword suggestions could be great additions to your keyword list. 
  • Look up keywords with an SEO tool – There are any number of free SEO tools out there. Choose one that makes sense to you and just search for a topic. You’ll be presented with a comprehensive list of keywords, along with their monthly search volumes and competition levels.
  • Spy on your competitor’s keywords – Some SEO tools like Ubersuggest also show you what sights are ranking for your chosen keyword and how many average backlinks they have.
  • Hang out where your target market does online – To better understand your customers’ interests, go where they do online. Youtube, Reddit, Quora, and other niche forums are a great place to start. Use these websites to uncover what topics your target market is talking about. Then start researching keywords related to these topics. 

Step 2: Analyze your keywords’ rankability

Once you’ve compiled a list of keywords with potential, it’s time to compare their search volumes and competition levels. Based on these metrics, some keywords will have more business value than others.

Search volume

Search volume is the number of searches a keyword receives each month. Monthly search volume varies drastically between keywords. Some keywords receive millions of searches a day, whereas others only get a few searches each month. 

To maximize your organic search traffic, choose keywords with a decent monthly search volume. However, don’t aim too high, or you’ll have no chance of ranking against the competition. 

Competition level

The difficulty of ranking for a specific keyword depends on how much competition you’re up against. Many keywords are already being targeted by thousands of corporate and enterprise businesses. 

However, sometimes you come across an amazing keyword that no one has targeted yet. This presents a golden opportunity for you to get ahead of your competition and rank for that keyword early on. 

Short-tail vs. long-tail keywords

Both search volume and competition differ depending on what type of keyword you’re looking at. There are two main types of keywords: short-tail keywords and long-tail keywords

Short-tail keywords

Short-tail keywords are short. They only contain up to three words. Some examples include: 

  • “computer”
  • “car”
  • “dog walker”
  • “best red wine” 

Since these are broad search terms, they have higher search volumes and face greater competition. Thus, they’re much more difficult to rank for.

Long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords contain more than three words. Due to their length, they end up being much more specific and targeted. This also means they have lower search volumes and less competition. As you might expect, they’re a lot easier to rank for.

Here are some examples of long-tail keyword phrases: 

  • “what is the best computer for a college student”
  • “sky blue 1997 honda civic”
  • “dog walkers in dallas texas”
  • “best red wine from trader joe’s”

In addition to being easier to rank for, long-tail keywords also result in more online sales. Why is this? Since these search queries are more targeted, they’re able to attract website visitors with greater precision. If you target the long-tail keywords your customers are searching for, your conversion rate will skyrocket. 

Review Google’s top 10 results to assess keyword difficulty

To see if you have a shot at ranking for a keyword, search for it on Google. Review the top ten organic results. Are they mostly blog posts? Or are they primarily product pages? This information is useful, as you’ll want to emulate what’s already ranking. 

Next, explore these results in a little more detail. Is the content thorough and well-written? Are there any information gaps you could fill in? Do the results mainly come from massive corporations or small business blogs?

To beat out the competition, your web page needs to be better than the current first-page search results in terms of:  

  • Web page content – Can you create content for your web page that will be even more relevant, informational, and thorough than the competition’s? 
  • Search intent – Can your web page’s content accurately satisfy the goal of the search query? 
  • Backlink profile – Does your web page have more quality backlinks than your competition’s? If not, do you think you can acquire more through link building?

Use these questions to determine whether you can feasibly rank for a given keyword. If you can’t, that keyword probably isn’t worth your time and effort. 

Step 3: Group keywords by search intent

Search intent is the reason behind why someone looks up a keyword in the search engine. Maybe they want to learn more about a topic, or maybe they’re just looking for a link to a website they already have in mind. 

When researching keywords, consider the following four main types of search intent:

  1. Informational search intent – The searcher wants to gain general knowledge on a topic. Informational keywords usually contain question words like “who, what, where, when, why, and how” or words that imply learning, like “guide,” “tutorial,” or “resource.” For example, “how to bake a cake” is a keyword with informational search intent. 
  1. Investigational search intent – The searcher wants to find information that can help them make a decision. Investigational keywords usually include terms like “best,” “top,” “review,” or “comparison.” For example “best chocolate cake mix” would help someone decide which brand of cake mix to purchase. 
  1. Transactional search intent – The searcher wants to find a website to take some sort of action, like making a purchase. Transactional keywords often use words like “buy,” “order,” “purchase,” “cheap,” or “price.” For example, you might search for “cheap cake decorating tools” to find a website that offers such products and make your purchase today. 
  1. Navigational search intent – The searcher already knows the website they want to visit and are looking for the link to it. Navigational keywords usually include the names of specific products, services, or brand names. For instance, you might search “cake decorating kit amazon” to find your chosen cake kit from Amazon.

Create content for each type of search intent 

These search intent categories cover all the stages of the “buyer’s journey.” This journey starts when a consumer has no knowledge about a product or service and it ends once they make their final purchase.  The buyer’s journey moves through the following stages:

  1. Attention – To capture a consumer’s attention, you can attract them with informational content about topics that relate to your brand. In these articles, readers will gain general knowledge, while simultaneously being introduced to your products and services. For example, maybe someone reads your “8 tips to keep a tidy home” article and learns about the robot vacuums you sell. 
  1. Interest – Once someone’s interest is piqued, they might feel motivated to learn more about a product or service. Informational blogs that would attract them at this stage would sound something like “What are the benefits of a robot vacuum?” They might not know which brand they want yet, but they’re interested in the product. 
  1. Desire – After learning about how valuable a product or service is, a consumer’s desire is sparked and they want to compare offerings between brands. Articles that contain investigational keywords, like “best robot vacuums on the market,” will be of great assistance at this stage. 
  1. Action – After doing some research, the consumer will finalize their decision and look up the website of their chosen retailer. At this point, they’re ready to buy. They will type in a navigational or transactional keyword, like “cheap iRobot Roomba vacuum” to find the vendor’s website and make their purchase or simply go to the website directly.

Why not only focus on transactional keywords?

If the action stage is where all the sales happen, why not solely target transactional keywords on your website? 

Here’s why:

  • You limit yourself with only targeting transactional keywords – If you only target transactional keywords, you are missing out on potential customers still researching products. You don’t want to limit your reach like that. By including both informational and transactional keywords in your strategy, you can introduce people to your brand that may not know they want your product yet and capture those ready to buy.
  • Consumers purchase from companies they’ve been previously exposed to – A consumer who has heard of your brand is more likely to buy from you than one that hasn’t. Thus, targeting informational keywords can make the difference between gaining a new customer or losing one to a competitor.

As you can see, it’s important to go after a variety of search intents in your keyword research process. When figuring out how to write content for a website, consider creating content that attracts people at each of the buying stages. From there, you can nurture them through the buying process with email marketing and other marketing tactics.

Step 4: Evaluate the business potential of each keyword

Now that you understand the various types of keywords, you need to make your final decisions. The last thing to consider is each keyword’s overall business potential. To do this, ask yourself whether you could reference your products or services in a blog post about the topic. If the answer is yes, the keyword has business potential. If not, it doesn’t.

For example, let’s say you run a pet-sitting company. You’re evaluating whether the keyword “do penguins fly” has business potential. 

Even though you could write an interesting blog on this subject, it would be difficult to reference your pet-sitting services in the article without it seeming forced. Furthermore, the audience for this blog won’t necessarily be pet owners, which is your target market. Thus, this keyword doesn’t have business potential and should be discarded from your list. 

Make sure that your keyword strategy is closely aligned with your business’ products and services.