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How to Do Keyword Research for Improved SEO?

updated on Sep 20, 2015
How to Do Keyword Research for Improved SEO? Keyword research is a fundamental and valuable activity in SEO. By researching the right keywords, you are able to know the demands, predict the changes of the market, and respond to different conditions quickly and accurately. As a result, you can create content and provide services that people are actively searching for, which helps achieve the ultimate goal of rankings, visits and sales.

Doing keyword researches requires much time and energy, especially in the case that you are giving the first try. You have to collect a lot of information, and then make a plan based on careful analyses. Also, as the demand is ever-changing, keyword research is not a once-for-all task, so you have to review your keyword strategy and optimize it on a regular basis – usually once in a quarter.

Wondering how to make your own keyword research that contributes to SEO? Below is a complete process that you can follow to work out a list of keywords that you can target.

Step 1: Brainstorm a Seed List of Topics and Keywords

First of all, you should think out a small list of topics that you want to rank in search engines. The most important and relevant topics will help you keep all the keywords focused. The best way to do this is to think from the perspective of your target audience to know what topics they may want to use when searching for your website. Also, the topics can be the content that you post frequently.

For example, if you run a blog teaching people how to build and maintain a website, the general topics should be like "blogging", "website creation", "website optimization", "web hosting", and so on.

After listing the important topics, the next task is to expand the topics with more specific keywords. These keyword phrases should be the most possible words that people may type in the search box when searching for the content related to your topics. This list is not the final plan, so you don't need to be too nervous.

To make an example, when talking about "website creation", people may think about the following phrases:
  • How to create a website
  • Website creation software
  • Best website creation tools
  • Website creation cost
  • Website creation using HTML
A point to note: when listing keyword phrases, take plurals into consideration, such as "tool/tools" and "application/applications", so later you can find the better one based on the researches in the popularity. Sometimes the form of words can make a big difference.

Brainstorm a Seed List of Topics and Keywords

Step 2: Expand the List with Researches

After pulling out the keywords in your mind, you now need to get some good ideas from others. A good way for doing this is to search your topics on Google and then take a look at the related searches. These suggestions are great resources which can either be added to your list or inspire you with new ideas. Of course, you can search these terms to see their related results.

For instance, when we search "website creation", we get the following suggestions.

Related Searches

Besides related searches, the top-ranked search results should also bring you some inspirations as they can cover a wide range of useful keywords. The possibilities are endless. This takes some time, but the results are worth it.

In addition to Google, you can also use some other tools to find more related phrases for your keywords. The following ones are good to use as they all offer detailed reports for not only the usable phrases, but also the search volume, CPC, competition, etc.
  • SEMRush: It provides free insights into keyword phrases, related keywords, related ads, and anything else that you may need. You can also get different reports based on country.
  • KeywordSpy: It has maintained a large database of keywords and offers you expansive suggestions about keyword phrases and their competition. A keyword tracking tool is also integrated.
  • SpyFu: You can get unlimited searches for millions of keyword. By typing a keyword in the search box, you receive stats for search volume, daily clicks, top domains on the keyword, history of rank changes, related terms, and so on.
SEMRush Related Keywords

Step 3: Enrich Your List by Understanding Competitors' Keywords

Since you have made your own list, you now need to improve it by analyzing your competitors' keyword strategies. Knowing what keywords your competitors are ranking will definitely help you with evaluating your keywords.

To gain full reports of your competitors, you have to make use of some tools mentioned in Step 2, such as SEMRush and KeywordSpy. They not only offer a feature for searching for keywords, but also allow you to find your competitors and get an insight into their keyword stats and ad copies.

Then, what should you do with the reports? Below are the suggestions about how to adjust your keywords based on your competitors' strategies and performance.
  • Read the keyword reports carefully, and then include those valuable phrases into your list – to gain more inspirations and opportunities.
  • For those keywords included in your list that your competitors are ranking well, you should put emphasis on them so you can work out the corresponding content strategy to gain even better ranking. Due to the competition, your success on those keywords is a little difficult, but the opportunities they bring are precious.
  • For the keywords that have been ignored by your competitors, don't underestimate their value because they may offer an easier way for you to gain market share on some important terms.
By reorganizing your keyword list, you can achieve a balance between "difficult" phrases and "easy" phrases, which bring about both short-term realistic goals and long-term challenging goals.

Enrich Your List by Understanding Competitors' Keywords

Step 4: Keep a Mix of Head Terms and Long Tail Keywords

Your plan should include a mix of head, body and long tail keywords. Head keywords are short and generic words like "shoes"; body keywords are more restrictive like "women's shoes", and long tail keywords are much longer and more descriptive, such as "best women's leather shoes in Sept". Keeping a mix of these keywords help you maintain both long-term and short-term goals.

Nowadays, long tail keywords are increasingly popular because they:
  • Make it less difficult to rank. As the head terms usually come with a larger volume of searches, they are more competitive, which makes it harder to get good rankings. Long tail keywords, however, are unique and easier to be ranked. Also, you should note that head and body terms only make up of 30% of the searches on the web while the rest 70% lie in the long tail keywords, according to researches.
  • Convert better. Those searching for "women's shoes" are probably not planning to buy immediately. On the contrary, people who are looking for "best price for Columbia hiking shoes" are practically ready to make a purchase.
  • Cost less in ads. In most cases, less searches and lower competition mean lower price for an ad.
Long Tail Keywords

Step 5: Cut Down the List and Abandon the Keywords with Low Value

Now that you have a long list which seems confusing with so much information, the next job is to cut it down by deleting the less useful keywords and phrases. Do not know where to start? That's all right because there are tons of tools you can use to judge the value of a keyword. The tools we like most are Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends. Both are completely free for use.

In Keyword Planner, you can have a search about each of your keywords to know the traffic estimates, competition, and the suggested cost of an ad of the keyword. Note that these pieces of information are shown under the "Keyword ideas" tab instead of the default "Ad group ideas". Google Trends, on the other hand, allows you to see the trend history and the prospect of your keywords.

If you need additional assistance besides these Google tools, any other keyword software mentioned in this post can also help.

Based on the search results on Keyword Planner and Google Trends, you can abandon the following types of keywords and phrases.
  • Keywords with great difficulty of succeeding. For the keywords with huge search volume, you can search them in main search engines like Google and Bing and take a look at the top results. If the top 10 positions have been taken by big brands, it may take years for you to gain a position for a single keyword. We'd suggest you to abandon those keywords if you are just starting your first presence online.
  • Highly-competitive keywords. Think carefully about whether you really want to keep those keyword phrases which are tagged "High" for the competition in Keyword Planner. Try to minimize the number if you do want to maintain some for setting future goals.
  • Keywords with no search volume. Undoubtedly, they are not worth your time and efforts.
  • Keywords whose searches are in a sharply downward trend. Even if they have a favorable search volume now, it is not a good idea to keep them to the long run because their value will vanish soon.
An important point to note is that the entire keyword list should focus on the interest and intent of the potential searchers. This is the ultimate guide for making an effective keyword strategy that will be loved by both human beings and search engines.

Finish the Keyword List