SEO Keyword Research: What, How and Why

Written by Rahil Joshi

Rahil Joshi, a seasoned digital marketing expert with over a decade of experience, excels in driving innovative online strategies.

SEO

July 14, 2023

feature image for seo keyword research blog

Every online marketer understands by now that each page of a website should target a carefully picked and thoroughly researched keyword phrase. But when it comes to blogging, a lot of people totally ignore the SEO keyword research process. There are several reasons why this is a missed opportunity.

However, there’s a distinct area of content creation where the importance of keywords often seems to get overlooked: blogging. Surprisingly, many online marketers and content creators ignore the keyword research process when it comes to their blogs. Some may view it as nonessential, while others may find it Challenging or time-consuming.

What is a Keyword?

In the SEO, a keyword is a word or set of words that users type into search engines when they’re looking for specific content. For instance, if you’re looking for a nice Italian restaurant in Chicago, you might search “best Italian restaurant in Chicago.” These keywords are the foundation of any successful SEO strategy.

Types of Keywords

Keywords can be categorized into various types.

Short-Tail Keywords: These are usually one or two-word phrases with high search volume but fierce competition. An example is “Pizza.”

Long-Tail Keywords: These are longer phrases with more specific search intent, like “Vegan Pizza in New York”. The search volume is lower, but these keywords often drive higher quality traffic.

LSI Keywords: Latent Semantic Indexing keywords are phrases semantically related to your primary keyword, enhancing your content’s context. An example could be “authentic crust” for the primary keyword “Pizza.”

Geo-targeted Keywords: These keywords incorporate geographical locations to attract a local audience, such as “Pizza in Chicago.”

Why are Keywords Important for SEO?

Keywords serve as the bridge between your content and the users searching for it. By integrating relevant keywords into your content, you signal to search engines like Google what your content is about. In return, search engines match your page with relevant search queries, driving organic traffic to your site.

tips for people doing SEO keyword research for first time
Tips for Keyword Searchers

Strategy to Finding Keywords for SEO

Finding the right keywords for your SEO strategy requires research and strategic thinking.

Identify Your Niche: Understand your business’s unique selling proposition and what sets you apart from competitors.

Know Your Audience: Identify the terms your audience uses to describe your products or services.

Brainstorm: Develop a list of potential keywords that resonate with your business and audience.

Use Keyword Research Tools: These tools can help you find variations and combinations of your initial keywords, along with data on their competitiveness and search volume.

Qualities of a Keyword

What makes a keyword good? Here are some characteristics to consider:

Search Volume: This refers to how often a keyword is searched for. High search volume keywords are generally more competitive but can drive substantial traffic.

Competition: This is the measure of how many websites are also optimizing for this keyword. Lower competition often means it’s easier to rank.

Cost-Per-Click (CPC): If you’re considering using a keyword for PPC campaigns, the CPC indicates how much you’ll pay each time someone clicks on your ad.

Word Count: Longer keywords, or long-tail keywords, often indicate more specific search intent, which can lead to higher conversion rates.

Keyword Search Intent

Keyword search intent is the reason a user has for their search. Understanding this can help you match your content with the user’s needs, which search engines love.

4 Types of Keyword Intent

  1. Informational: The user seeks information, such as “How to make pizza dough?”
  1. Navigational: The user wants to find a specific website or page, like “Pizza Hut menu.”
  1. Transactional: The user intends to purchase, such as “Order pizza online.”
  1. Commercial Investigation: The user is comparing products or services, like “Dominos vs Pizza Hut.”

Negative Keywords to Avoid

Negative keywords are terms that you don’t want your content to rank for. For instance, if you sell gourmet pizza, you might want to avoid “cheap pizza” as a keyword.

Let’s take an example, suppose you have a store that sells high-end, designer shoes. Your shoes are handcrafted, made of premium materials, and, understandably, are priced higher than average shoes. The customers you’re targeting are those who appreciate quality and are willing to pay for it.

When choosing keywords for your SEO strategy, you decide to use phrases like “designer shoes,” “premium leather shoes,” and “handcrafted shoes.” These keywords accurately represent your products and are likely to be used by your target customers when they’re searching for the kind of shoes you sell.

Now, imagine you accidentally rank for the keyword “cheap shoes.” This could lead to an influx of visitors looking for budget footwear. They come to your site, see your prices, and quickly leave because your products don’t fit their budget. This situation increases your bounce rate (which could hurt your SEO in the long run), and it doesn’t lead to sales because the people visiting your site aren’t your target customers.

In this case, “cheap shoes” is a negative keyword for your business. By avoiding ranking for this term, you can ensure that your website attracts the right kind of visitors—those who are looking for high-quality, designer shoes and are ready to pay for them.

So, negative keywords help you avoid wasting resources on unqualified leads and keep your SEO efforts laser-focused on the audience that is most likely to convert.

SEO Keywords VS PPC Keywords

While SEO keywords aim to achieve long-term organic search visibility, PPC keywords are for paid campaigns with immediate effect. The ideal approach often involves a mix of both, targeting high-volume, competitive keywords with PPC and long-tail, specific intent keywords with SEO.

 SEO KeywordsPPC Keywords
PurposeTo improve organic ranking and drive free traffic to your website.To drive traffic through paid ads. Users clicking the ads generate costs.
CostFree, but requires time and effort to achieve high rankings.Costs money. You pay each time a user clicks on your ad.
Time for ResultsResults take time, often several weeks or months, as SEO is a long-term strategy.Results are immediate once the campaign starts.
VisibilityVisibility increases as you climb in organic rankings.Ads are typically displayed above organic search results.
User PerceptionUsers often trust organic search results more.Users know these are ads, which may affect their click-through rate.
Keyword LengthLong-tail keywords (3-4 word phrases) are often more effective.Both short and long-tail keywords can be effective, depending on the campaign strategy.
SustainabilityResults often last longer. Once you rank high, you can maintain that with good SEO practices.Results stop when you stop paying for the ads.

How to Use Keywords

Once you have your keyword list, use them strategically in your content, meta descriptions, title tags, and headers. However, avoid keyword stuffing; search engines prefer natural, contextually relevant usage.

Best Elements/Tags to Put Keywords

To reap maximum benefits, place your keywords in the following areas:

  1. Page Title: The page title is one of the first things both users and search engines see. It’s crucial to include your main keyword here as it directly impacts SEO and is displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs). For example, if your keyword is “vegan pizza recipes,” your page title could be “10 Delicious Vegan Pizza Recipes.”
  1. Meta Description: This brief summary appears below your page title in SERPs. It should be compelling and include your main keyword to improve click-through rates. For instance, continuing with the above example, your meta description could be “Discover 10 mouth-watering vegan pizza recipes that are easy to make and loaded with flavors.”
  1. Headers and Subheaders: These guide readers through your content and help search engines understand your content structure. Including keywords in headers and subheaders (especially H1 and H2 tags) can enhance SEO. In our vegan pizza example, a subheader might be “Creating the Perfect Vegan Pizza Crust.”
  1. Main Content: Keywords should naturally be woven into your content to meet the reader’s expectations based on their search. Remember to avoid keyword stuffing and aim for relevancy and readability.
  1. URL: Having your keyword in the URL helps search engines understand the content of the page and is beneficial for SEO. A sample URL might be www.yoursite.com/vegan-pizza-recipes.
  1. Image Alt Text: Search engines can’t “see” images but can read the alt text. Including keywords in your image alt text helps search engines understand the content of the images and improves your SEO.

  1. Popular Tools for Keyword Research: These tools aid in identifying the right keywords to include in the above areas. Some widely-used tools include SEMrush, Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, and Moz Keyword Explorer. These tools provide insights into keyword search volume, competition, related keywords, and more, assisting you in creating a robust keyword strategy.

Some Renowned SEO Keyword Research Tools include:

SEMrush

SEMrush is a comprehensive digital marketing suite that offers numerous tools for SEO, content marketing, competitive research, and more. However, its Keyword Magic Tool stands out as a favorite among SEO experts. In around 200 words:

This tool helps you find the right keywords for your SEO and PPC campaigns. You simply enter a seed keyword, and SEMrush generates a wealth of long-tail and related keywords, complete with data on search volume, keyword difficulty, competitive density, and cost-per-click (CPC) values. What sets SEMrush apart is its ability to segment keywords into groups based on semantic similarity, which makes it easier to organize and target related keywords. Moreover, it’s the breadth of SEMrush’s functionality that makes it a potent tool. Besides keyword research, you can track your keyword rankings, analyze backlinks, audit your site for SEO issues, and gain insightful competitor data.

Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is a free tool from Google Ads, designed to help advertisers choose competitive bids and budgets to use with their campaigns. However, it’s also a great tool for keyword research:

By entering a seed keyword into the Keyword Planner, it generates ideas for new keywords related to your term and provides insights into their average monthly search volumes and competition levels. While it doesn’t offer the same level of detail or functionality as some paid tools, its data comes directly from Google, making it highly reliable. It’s also particularly helpful for PPC keyword research, providing information about potential ad costs and traffic forecasts for selected keywords.

Ahrefs Keyword Explorer

Ahrefs is known for its backlink analysis, but its Keyword Explorer tool is also top-notch. A look into its functionalities:

Keyword Explorer provides a vast range of data on any keyword you enter, including search volume, keyword difficulty, clicks data, and a list of related keyword ideas. One of Ahrefs unique features is its keyword difficulty score, which gives you an estimate of how hard it would be to rank on the first page of Google for that keyword. Furthermore, it also provides a ‘parent topic’ for each keyword, helping you understand if you can rank for your target keyword while targeting a more general topic in your content.

Moz Keyword Explorer

Moz is another all-in-one SEO toolset that boasts an impressive Keyword Explorer tool. Here’s how it stands out:

Moz’s Keyword Explorer provides a broad set of keyword suggestions and data points, including monthly search volume, keyword difficulty, and organic CTR. A distinguishing feature of Moz is its ‘Priority Score,’ which combines all other metrics (volume, difficulty, CTR) into a single score to help you prioritize your keywords. It also offers a ‘SERP Analysis’ section, providing a snapshot of the current top-ranking pages for your keyword, which can help you understand the competition and strategize accordingly.

Keyword Research ToolStar Rating
SEMrush4.5/5
Google Keyword Planner4.7/5
Ahrefs Keyword Explorer4.7/5
Moz Keyword Explorer4.5/5
Keyword Research Tool Star Rating Chart

In the world of SEO, keywords are the compass guiding users to your content. By understanding and implementing strategic keyword SEO, you can optimize your site, attract your target audience, and boost your business’s online presence. At Web Zodiac, we’re here to help you navigate this path, ensuring your digital marketing success, in case you need SEO services for your business, shoot us an email at info@webzodiac.com.

Remember, keyword SEO isn’t a one-time event but an ongoing process. As trends change and algorithms evolve, you’ll need to revisit and refine your strategy continually. But don’t worry, with every step, you’ll get better, and we’ll be right here, supporting you. Happy Keyword Hunting!

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