Keyword Research: A Guide to Improve your Google Rank

keyword research


People around the globe search Google 1.2 trillion times a day on average (Multiply that with 365 if you may, but the strength of the fact is quite evident from per day stats too). The numbers are on the rise, year-over-year.

A graph showing the number of Google searches each year from 1999-2012. The number is consistently rising.

(Source: Google Search Statistics)

(Please don’t assume that we wrote this blog in 2012. However, we too have sensed the fondness of the source for that year).

That being said, every website owner secretly wishes to have his website content shown up higher in SERPs against the queries in his niche. 

Every one of them with no exception!

And then there are those who get ranked for those queries.

Who’s this other creed? Where do they come from? How do their wishes come true?

Here’s the whole deal.

Well, part of the ranking counts on researching those queries (the exact terms and phrases, i.e., keywords) to find what your target audience is looking for. We refer to this process of looking for the keywords (so you could secure a high position on SERPs against those terms) as KEYWORD RESEARCH

Based on this research, you can weave or optimize your content around those key terms (and rank) instead of just wishing to rank. 

Needless to point out even to a beginner that keyword research is an essential part of making your Content Marketing and SEO strategies a huge success. The creation of content should never begin unless you have done your in-depth keyword research, OR be sure to wander in the land of the lost, with no direction. 

So we have carefully crafted the details of the process to research the keywords in a few steps.

However, before we dive in, here’s an important question people ask about this process:

DO KEYWORDS ACTUALLY HELP SEO?

Do keywords help SEO?

Knowing the link between Keywords research and optimization with SEO is basically knowing the importance of the process. 

Search Engine Optimization is the process to optimize your content (and website as a whole) to rank higher on SERPs. 

But isn’t this exactly what you are using the Keywords for?

Precisely!

However, optimizing your content for relevant Keywords is just a teeny-weeny part of the enormous process of SEO. The importance of this part is not that trivial, however. 

Seth Godin said, *Everyone is not your customer*.

Image courtesy: About Seth Godin 

 

So, who wants to extend efforts in attracting people who mean nothing to his business? But, then what about your dream of getting a respectable traffic figure when you built your website? Didn’t you?

Don’t worry! Your dream is going nowhere; neither is your traffic!

Keyword research is the process that helps your SEO laser target the core audience you are interested in attracting, thus increasing your organic traffic and its quality.

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Targeting the same keywords your target audience is looking for means that you are speaking their language. It also means that you have a solution to their problem. This attracts them to you as a magnet if you find the right problem, and your solution is valid. 

Results? Traffic, Ranking, Growth!

We’ll say no more!

Technical Search Engine Optimization

Types of keywords:

Before you know how to begin this process, it is worthwhile to know some important types of keywords.

 I- Short-tail keywords

These keywords are made up of 3 or a lesser number of words and are often referred to as head keywords. They usually have a high level of competition and high difficulty level because the search intent of Short-tailed keywords is somewhat ambiguous.

For instance, typing in *Content Marketing* in the search bar, the user could mean a hundred things or more. The keyword doesn’t show if the user is looking for a definition, these services, a guide, or what? Therefore, Short tail keywords have a lower conversion rate.

 II-Long-tail keywords

When the keywords are longer than 3 words, that’s what you call them. Long-tail keywords have low search volume and low competition, so ranking for them or converting them is relatively easier. This is specifically true because the search intent of the user is quite clear from these keywords.

For example, when the searcher types *SEO service providers in Los Angeles* or I-phone 11 Pro Specs, Google doesn’t have to play a guessing game or stress out on what to fetch him.

 III-Seasonal keywords

The keywords that hit the market at a certain time and have a high search volume during that time are seasonal keywords. This type includes the events that occur at regular intervals or just once randomly.

The searches before and a while after the events are almost non-existent. However, they interestingly peak up as the event draws near and last for a while. These keywords have quite a clear search intent, and the conversion rate for them is higher.

Have a look at the graph for the 4th of July, for instance.

 IV- Evergreen Keywords

Like evergreen content, these keywords stay fresh and relevant round the year (and for the years to come) and thus keep receiving hits. The search volume of these keywords might not be very high at a given time, but they barely age or lose searches.

 

Pro-tip: Keep updating your Evergreen Content to utilize their maximum traffic attracting and ranking potential. 

And that’s all the folks! 

Now for what gathered us here, today.

How do you research keywords?

Now, that’s a question you’d see different people answering differently. No answers are right or wrong because the ultimate goal of all the methods is to acquire more high-quality organic traffic. Here’s a simplified way of researching your keywords.

1- Prepare for logging your data

You are on a mission to bring the interested part of the world to your web page. That calls for some preparation.

Logging the details of your search on a document brings you immense ease down the road. There’s so much data that you’d want to keep handy for future usage.

You have many options to store your data. For example:

 I- Excel sheet on your system

 II- Google doc

 III- Word document in your system

 IV- Zoho Writer

 V- Dropbox paper

 VI- Any other word processing tools or applications

2- Search for ideas 

I- Brainstorm content ideas/subjects useful for your business

Begin your search with brainstorming ideas that are useful for your target audience. Consider generic terms that are valuable for that audience. This is just the beginning of the process that leads you to the keyword you are looking for. 

For instance, as a Digital Marketer, your list might resemble this list (as a near or distant relative):

a- Social Media

 b- Digital Media

 c- Content Marketing

 d- Digital Marketing

 e- SEO

 f- Keywords

 g-Website traffic

 h-Promoting your business online

 i- Competitors research

 j- Blogging

 k- Marketing Funnel

l- Email automation

These were just the first few terms that hit my mind thinking about Digital Marketing. The list consists of related content topics that are likely to have massive value for the target audience, looking for information on these topics or these services. 

Remember to jot down all the topics in the list you intend to maintain.

II- Check out popular search terms and queries people are talking about (with the focus on search intent).

Picking one of the terms from your list, see what people are talking about the topic. Look for the exact terms and phrases people use to describe their problems that fall under the topic. Provide a solution to that problem and see those people rushing to your website.

However, before you actually start doing it all, you must be wondering where & how to find out what these people are talking about or looking for?

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Let’s get down to a few ways:

a- Google trends

Pick a topic and search it up on Google trends. Here’s the basic information that you can leverage Google trends for:

  i- A graph showing the search volume of a topic over time.

ii- Understanding of the geographical distribution of the search query volume.

iii- A group of related keywords that might have a high potential for you. 

Google trends-results for a search query *Digital trends* as a part of keyword research. The results show the interest in the search term over time, geographical location, related topics, and related queries.

Note: You may combine this step with the rest of the topic in a sequence that suits you better. For example, you might want to use Google trends to check the popularity of a search query (keyword) on your way to the finalization of a keyword instead of beginning your search with it.

b- Quora

Quora is a heaven for the people relying on other people and their first-hand experience and knowledge about matters. This is how it works:

You have a problem!

You post a query about it on Quora. People (most probably experts and influencers to-be in that niche) would respond to your query. You’d get a useful response, and they’d get some credit and reputation that builds their authority.

So, *how can we use Quora for keywords research?* is the next genuine question.

For that, enter a query/content topic/keyword in the search bar and hit enter. In just a while, Quora would come up with all the questions that people have typed about that topic. That is the exact list you get to learn the exact pain points of your target audience from and the language they use to communicate those pain points.

Quora is a platform to get answers on any topic. This is also a platform for marketers to discover what people are looking for, do their questions based on keyword research, and build their authority by responding to niche-specific queries.

Do not forget to enter these questions in your log sheet in a separate column.

c- Twitter

Twitter gives you a list of hashtags (both region-specific or worldwide). These hashtags again give you ideas of what topics are people most interested in right now. You can either use those hashtags as your short-tail keywords or keep following that trend to get an idea of the content that is being created around those trending topics.

Make a separate column in your log sheet and enter the details of this project.

III- Leverage Google’s Search data on keywords people are looking for

People have a plethora of questions to ask, and so Google has a plethora of information on the searches people make. But where is that data & how to access that?

Here are the answers.

  a- Google/Youtube search suggestions

When you type in a content idea in Google, Google suggests other related results based on how popular a search query is. Youtube also follows the pattern to recommend some keywords people are frequently searching for on that topic.

Enter those keywords in a separate column in your list.

  b- Searches related to your keyword

The recommendations at the bottom of your SERP are a huge treasure. Google recommends all the other things people are looking for related to your search query. 

If you don’t find a suitable option, click on one of them to find yourself on another SERP having more suggestions. Repeat the process until you find what contents you and log the results in your list.

  c– People also Ask

Google also recommends you all the other questions people look up online related to your search query. Here’s what it looks like.

You can choose one of the questions, move to a page with answers and more of such questions. Keep digging until you find relevant results or go to another method to find ideas.

IV- Get inspired by your competitor’s keywords

Get a good look at the keywords that your competitors are using or are ranking for.

This gives you an insight into their strategy, and you get a list of keywords that they are following. Based on this list, you can either try and rank for the same keywords or be inspired to create your own related keywords.

Here’s how you can find the keywords that your competitors are ranking for.

  a- Pro Rank Tracker

Pro rank tracker, a tool used for Keyword research for rank tracking, analysis, and reporting.

It is an SEO tool that gets you SEO based information on a website you enter. You can enter your own site to analyze your own SEO score and ranking.

Use the same strategy to spy on your competitor. The report would include the keywords that your competitors have chosen after undergoing the whole process. This is a shortcut to get strategic keywords to rank for.

Alternatively, you can further research these keywords to find useful variants and create content around them.

Whatever path you choose, make sure to log your results in your maintained sheet.

  b– Alexa

Alexa works on the same principle as ProRankTracker to get you information on your competitor’s research. 

  c- Ahrefs Content Gap

This works by getting a list of your competitors and giving you data on the keywords more than one of your competitors have created content around, but you have a gap there. Bridge up the gap by using such keywords to create content and rank for them.

  d- Uber suggest 

UberSuggest is a simplified version of analyzing and presenting complex search results. As you enter a website, the tool breaks it down to the keywords the website is optimized for. Use these keywords as they are, or run further checks.

Pro tip: UberSuggest also measures keywords on certain scales that we’ll discuss in a while. If a keyword looks good on that scale, use it right away without a second thought.

V- Find what keywords are bringing people to your website

Check out a reporting or analytics tool like Google Analytics to see your own results.

Focus on what keywords have brought people to your website the most.

Based on these results, you know which content to improve further and what content to produce next. Jot down the results of your website’s keyword analysis and move to some other step.

3- Examine the keywords on a final scale

Finally, when you have created a long list of keywords from different sources, it is time to narrow down your list to get the best results. For that, you’d have to test them on the scale of their difficulty level, search volume, competition, and Cost per Click (CPC).

Let’s look into their individual importance.

I- The keyword difficulty level

This important metric measures the difficulty of ranking for a keyword, often described in terms of keyword competition. The greater the difficulty score, the higher the competition and difficult it is to rank for that keyword and vice versa. 

The keyword difficulty level is measured on a scale of 0-100. If a keyword lies anywhere between 0-49, you can utilize the keyword. However, the recommended keywords are the ones between 0-29 on the scale of difficulty level. The keywords ranging from 50-100 are difficult to rank, and the level of difficulty increases with each point increase in the score.

II- Search Volume

The metric gives you an idea of your odds of getting traffic if your content is optimized well for all SEO factors and provides the value the audience is looking for. The higher search volume indicates greater popularity of a keyword, thus more are your odds to reach your targets with that keyword. 

But there’s a catch!

While this is one of the metrics you can base your choice of using a keyword on, the decision shouldn’t be completely or heavily influenced by Search volume stats only. Tim Soulo at Ahrefs states how these stats can often be quite daunting or inaccurate.

III- Cost per Click

CPC is the measure of the amount spent by an advertiser as someone clicks on the ad for a particular keyword. Your decision to use or not to use a keyword could be influenced by how much amount an advertiser is paying for that keyword. The more expensive a keyword is, the more precious it is (not a hard and fast rule though).

Before you assume, lo and behold that the decision to use a keyword should never be based on only one or two metrics. Base this decision on all of these factors (there are other factors we’d prefer discussing in another blog post). For instance, if a keyword has low search volume, try basing your decision on competition/difficulty level and CPC. 

Let’s assume that a keyword has low competition. Sounds good.

So what? USE IT, Right?

WRONG!

Not just yet. Use it when you see either of CPC or Search Volume high (or both, ideally).

So, always try to go for a combination of factors before you decide to stay in a relationship with a specific keyword or breakup with it.

But how do you measure these metrics? Can you figure out if a keyword has low difficulty or high CPC on your own?

For simplicity’s sake, there are tools so you don’t need to figure things out on your own even if you can. Let us dig into our possibilities:

Tools to help finalize Keywords

 I- Google keyword planner

Google can help you filter your keywords with its Keyword planner tool. This basic tool helps you determine the value of a keyword by giving the value of each of the discussed metrics. Here’s how it works.

Choose the 1st option as you land on the screen shown in the image, enter a keyword/s and get started. You’ll land on a new page, with an additional list of related keywords along with the metrics you need. This is when you need to create a list of ideas.

Now you have a list of ideas to shortlist, how can Google keyword planner help?

i- Choose the 2nd option on the page (shown on the first image) after reaching the Google keyword planner.

ii- Enter all your keywords and phrases or upload a document containing the same.

Google keyword planner tool used in Keyword research to find the right keywords to rank for.

iii- You will be directed to the results page where you get data (the metrics mentioned above) on the keywords you entered. 

Whatever path you follow, filter the results for the metrics that you are interested in, and analyze results. Based on these results, choose as many keywords as you like but make sure to stay relevant to your niche and services and log your results in your list.

 II- Ahrefs

Ahrefs Keyword Explorer tool provides tons of value about a keyword you are analyzing. 

Results on the Ahrefs keyword research tool

 

Now that is A LOT of data to digest. Luckily it is all simple facts and figures that are understandable. You get additional information to help decide a keyword (or related ideas you’d see at the bottom of the image).

 III- Keywords everywhere

Keyword everywhere has gone a step further in enabling you to search for a keyword and related details right on your browser. 

As you enter your search query on any of these websites (shown in the image), you’d see your stats for important metrics right there and then. This is no less than impressive AND time-savior. Choose the keywords (or their variants or related searches data) that suits your needs and keep it going.

The websites Keyword everywhere, the keywords researching tool, is integrated with.

IV- Keyword finder

The keyword finder works in essentially the same way as almost all the other tools. 

Begin your search by entering the keyword (or the domain) you are interested in analyzing, enter your preferences for language and location, and hit enter. 

Wait while your juice is getting ready. As the results are delivered, check out the critical metrics and see if the keyword (or the related, suggested results) are good enough for you, make a decision and move on.

Keyword finder, the tool that helps with Keyword research.

Meanwhile, bear in mind that your list needs to be maintained at each step (whether we remind you or not) or you have done the whole process in vain.

4- Bonus: Keywords optimization

Now that you have created a shortlist of closely related keywords, do what next?

How about using them to create content? Good idea!

Content created, what next?

Optimize it for the organic keyword/s in question. That’s the kicker!

Do not over-stuff your content with the keyword or its synonyms or variants but do not under-use them. Make sure your content is fresh, relevant, valuable, and updated. Optimize the heading, meta-description, images, Alt-texts, etc. for the keyword, focus on link building for the content, and focus on every other important SEO aspect.

Have you done that?

Now, read, reread, edit, post, and make a silent prayer for it to strike minds and hearts.

Wrap up:

Keyword research is a process that every expert does his/her way, but most of them are not wrong. How you go about the process basically depends much on your convenience and comfort.

In simple words (and steps), begin with creating a log list and then finding ideas, sticking to your niche.

  • Get topic ideas from every possible platform. Search your mind, search Google, Reddit, Quora, and other public forums. Use online tools to search for ideas. Search your competitors for ideas and search for your website to see what attracts the prospects the most.
  • Analyze and examine the list of keywords you have created on the scale of Competition/difficulty level, search volume, CPC (and other metrics if you may). Choose the options that are your best match, jot them down in your list & Viola. 

The best part is that you don’t have to follow the sequence of events we have mentioned. Just don’t change the place of last step (analyzing the shortlisted keywords based on discussed metrics) and you know exactly WHY!

Now, you are ready to create content around the chosen keywords and rock!

Your turn:

We have mentioned several ways to look for ideas. Which ones do you consider better and easier?

Which steps would you like to combine (or have already combined) to make your version of the process? 

Let us know in the comments 🙂

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