Keywords and Keyword Research

What Is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the process of uncovering and analyzing the search terms, i.e., keywords, that users type into the search engines. The goal is to learn more about user queries, their intent, popularity, and ranking difficulty. 

Doing keyword research is the precursor to creating high-quality content that ranks. It is one of the pillars of search engine optimization (SEO), and the first step of every content strategy.

How to Choose Keywords?

It’s not enough to just pick your keywords at random by going after the ones that seem the most valuable at first glance. The keywords you choose need to be relevant to your business while striking a balance between high search volume and keyword difficulty.

Relevance

Suffice it to say you won’t get far if Google can’t make the connection between what you’re claiming to do and what you’re actually doing. The keywords you’re researching need to be logically connected to your business.

A good way to begin the keyword research is brainstorming a couple of topics relevant to what you do. Using any kind of software tool is unnecessary at this stage of keyword research. Figure out several generic topic categories that you’d like to populate with content.

Once you have an idea about what kind of topic categories you’d like to cover, you can start looking up keywords that are relevant to those topics.

Search Volume

Search volume is the measure of how much a given keyword is searched for on a monthly basis. It shows whether there’s sufficient demand for a certain keyword or not.

Good content supplies a demand — if there’s low or no demand for a given keyword, you won’t get much traffic out of it. Keywords with low search volume are going to be easy to compete for, but it’s ultimately not going to be worth the effort.

Keyword Difficulty

Keyword difficulty measures how high the competition is for a keyword. The higher the difficulty, the less likely you are to successfully rank for that search term.

It would be prudent to avoid keywords that are too difficult to rank for. If there’s too much competition for a specific term, it’s highly unlikely that a new website will be able to rank for it. Even well-established websites will have a hard time competing for high-difficulty keywords, so it’s best to avoid them altogether.

Perfect Balance

The key to choosing the right keywords for the website is to strike the perfect balance between relevance, search volume, and keyword difficulty.

Find a keyword with a search volume that will bring sufficient, high-quality traffic, but without too much competition.

Head Terms and Long-Tail Keywords

It’s important to differentiate head terms from long-tail keywords in order to formulate a successful content strategy. Head terms are more generic keywords that usually consist of three or fewer words. They’re terms that represent broader topics that are oftentimes too general.

Head terms are often frequently searched keywords, making them incredibly difficult to compete for. However, they’re excellent long-term goals that every business needs. Sooner or later, your website might come on top and beat the competition using generic head terms.

Having a long-term plan is all well and good, but every business needs quick wins too. That’s where long-tail keywords come into play. They’re more specific keywords (often longer than three words) that drive high-quality traffic to the website. They’re often easier to compete for than head terms and bring results far sooner than they do.

A combination of head terms and long-tail keywords is an excellent game plan for most types of websites.

User Intent

In the last couple of years, we’ve seen a shift from traditional keyword research to user-oriented one. In other words, keyword research is no longer about simply finding the right keywords and spreading them throughout the web page.

The focus is now on user intent, that is, solving for what you assume the user wanted to achieve when they typed their query into search engines. What this means is that keywords are no longer used without context — understanding user intent matters more than ever.

Typing similar queries into your search engine might reveal more about user intent in case you aren’t sure what it is the user wanted. Seeing the results can help you pinpoint the right content strategy for your audience.

Formulating a Content Strategy

When you have all the keywords at your disposal, it’s time to use them to create a well-informed content strategy.

Plan how much content you’d like to have, whether you’re going to use more keywords in a single article or spread them across several web pages, and figure out what the main topics are.

Once you have your first batch of ready-to-use keywords, competitive keyword analyses will reveal additional topics and entities to cover.

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