Blog Post

Keyword Research Tips and Best Practices

September 28, 2016
Table of Contents

For anybody who doesn’t spend their days eating, sleeping, and breathing search engine optimization (SEO) 24/7, it may seem silly to think that so much time and energy is spent researching and analyzing the seemingly trivial things we type into Google every day. However, for those of us who do spend a significant portion of our day doing SEO, we understand that those “seemingly trivial” keywords form the foundation of SEO and, depending on what we do with them, can make or break a website.

By performing keyword research, you not only learn which words and phrases to target, but also learn more about your customers and market as a whole. Basically, doing keyword research ensures that we “speak the same language” as our prospective customers… but only if done correctly. So, before you spend hours performing keyword research, make sure that you’re doing it correctly by following these keyword research tips and best practices.

Understand The Scope And Purpose Of The Page You’re Doing Research For

Before you dive into AdWords keyword research tool and Moz’s Keyword Difficulty Tool, it is important that you have a clear understanding of the purpose of the page you are doing keyword research for. This begins with understanding keyword search intent. This simply means understanding the intent behind users’ searches. Are they looking for answers to a specific question? Are they looking to purchase something? Or are they trying to find a certain website?

For example, if you are doing keyword research in the keyword planner for a product page on an e-commerce site that sells mattresses, you want to target transactional keywords such as “buy mattress online” or “queen size mattress”. Through targeting transactional keywords, you will attract prospects who are already further down in the marketing funnel and ready to make a purchase.

However, if you are doing keyword research for a blog post about mattresses, you are most likely targeting prospects at the top of the marketing funnel who are looking for information before making a purchase. In this case, you want to target informational keywords or phrases such as “best mattress for me” or “what kind of mattress should I get?”.

Just as important as understanding user intent is understanding industry nuances. When doing keyword research, you want to have a basic comprehension of any idiosyncrasies in the industry. For example, in the mattress example above, you should be targeting keywords such as “memory foam mattress” or “double sided mattress” to ensure that you are covering all your bases.

Pro Tip: Make sure that all parties involved are on the same page regarding the purpose of a specific webpage at the beginning of the SEO campaign.

Related: SEO tips even traditional marketers should know

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Understand The Competition

While doing keyword research, it is critical, and I mean critical, that you keep a close eye on the competition’s strategy at all times. Not only does this help you stay on your toes but it also saves you a large amount of time and energy… there’s no point in reinventing the wheel if you don’t have to right?

Explore related pages that your competitors may be ranking for using a tool like AWR Cloud, identify any low-hanging-fruit keywords that you could potentially rank for, and compile these related keywords in a document for use across keyword mapping pages. In addition to analyzing competitor’s keywords, take a look at their overall site structure. If you are working on a new website, this could help you structure your own pages. Or, if working on an existing site, could help you improve the structure of existing pages.

Pro Tip: Don’t strictly look at keyword targeting opportunities. Make sure that you also take a look at how your competition is positioning themselves and what user experience is like on their webpages.

Related: How to tell if your SEO strategy is falling flat

Brainstorm Additional Keyword Opportunities

While checking up on your competition and leveraging some of their keywords is always helpful, don’t get lazy and fail to brainstorm additional keyword opportunities. I understand that this is always easier said than done. But luckily there are plenty of tools out there such as Internet Marketing Ninjas’ Search Combination Tool to help with the process of generating keyword ideas.

Keyword tools like this helps SEOs create lists of search terms that we may have not thought of before and generate long-tail keyword combinations quickly and easily.

Agency Tip: Collaborate with your in-house team to find the best opportunity keywords that will drive revenue or leads.

Don’t Just Stop At Search Volume

We’ve all been there: we find a highly relevant keyword or search term with tons of search volume and cannot wait to use it in our SEO campaign. However, six months after implementation, we still aren’t seeing results. This is most likely because we failed to examine the keyword on a competitive basis. If we target a keyword that has great search volume but is highly competitive, chances are we won’t see much success in driving traffic to the website for that search term.

It was a great thought, but what good is targeting a keyword if we can’t actually rank for it?

Instead, once you’ve compiled a list of keywords with high search volume, set aside some time to research how competitive it is. Using a tool like Moz’s Keyword Difficulty tool, you can examine the top 10 ranking pages for a specific keyword and form an understanding about how strong their site is based on domain authority, trust flow, backlink profile, and other site health metrics. Each of these factors will determine if your site could actually rank within the top 10 (aka on page 1).

Agency Tip: Reach out to the paid advertising team to find opportunities to high performing (or converting) keywords regardless of whether you can rank for them in the short- or long-term. This could provide insights for stronger keywords as your site’s authority grows.

Related: How much do you know about SEO? Take the quiz!

Wrapping Up

Keyword research lays the foundation for a successful SEO strategy. Ensure that you are performing research correctly with these keyword research tips! Also keep in mind that, in the end, we are catering to actual users, so try your hardest to utilize natural speak when putting your keyword research to work! Check out our blog post about the basics of SEO if you are interested in growing your foundational knowledge of Search Engine Optimization!


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