Google has become the mecca for search. Over the years, it has clobbered its competitors and become the number one trusted search engine on the planet.
Users around the world perform 3.5 billion Google searches daily. That’s 1.2 trillion searches globally each year. If you want to capture a portion of that audience, you have to stand out and make sure you’re ranking at or near the top of the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Otherwise, users aren’t going to be able to find your content or company, and you won’t be able to capitalize on those valuable website visits.
An estimated 75% of users never look beyond the first page of results, and the top search result receives 33% of traffic. The second result receives 18%, the third receives 11% and it just keeps going down from there.
You need to make sure your site is ranking high, and ready to be discovered by users. If you are looking to optimize your website for search and appear at the top of the results page, you need to perform keyword research.
What Is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is a search engine optimization tactic that involves determining what search terms people are using to find websites and content like yours. On a deeper level, keyword research also includes researching competitors’ keywords, seeing how tough it is to rank for certain keywords, determining where to place keywords on your website and within your content, figuring out the value of long-tail vs. head term keywords and deciding how often to use keywords.
Though keyword research sounds complicated, with practice and the right tools at your side, you can utilize it to ensure you’re ranking high for every piece of content and website page you create.
Use the following steps to develop a strong keyword strategy that will have your content climbing to the top of the search engine results page in no time.
Determine Your Target Topics
The first step of keyword research is to come up with topics that you want to rank for. If you run a marketing company, for example, you’d want to rank for things like “marketing,” “marketing services,” “content marketing” and “social media marketing.” You can also think of more specific topics you’d like to target, such as “marketing services in Dallas, Texas” or “social media marketing for B2B software companies.” Include many broad and specific topics on this list that you’d like to research.
Research Which Keywords to Use with Paid Tools
Now, it’s time to start researching what keywords are out there.
In terms of paid tools, SEMrush is one of the best. Simply log onto SEMrush and begin researching the keywords you chose.
On SEMrush, you can see things like:
- Search volume, which is how many times people searched for that keyword (usually over a one-month period)
- Keyword difficulty (KD), which is a number that shows you how hard it is to rank in the first spot on the SERP
- How many search engine results there are for that keyword
- Suggested related keywords, which you can dive into and see if they have a lower keyword difficulty
- Competitors’ keywords, which are what your competitors are using. You can try to outrank them on their keywords.
Since there is no exact science when it comes to using keywords, you’ll have to determine if you want to go for competitive keywords with high volume, or keywords with less volume and competition. It’s best to start with lower competition and volume, since you want to build up your domain authority prior to trying to rank for higher competition keywords. If you are patient and use a smart and consistent keyword strategy, you’ll have a better chance of nabbing those top spots on the SERP later on.
Research Which Keywords to Use with Free Tools
Perhaps you’re not willing to invest the money into a paid tool like SEMrush for now. If you want a free option, you can use Moz’s Keyword Explorer to analyze keywords as well. For more advanced options, and multiple keyword searches per month, you’ll also have to pay for Moz’s services.
Another way to do research for free is to simply navigate to the Google search page, enter a keyword and see what suggested searches pop up underneath. Make sure you take a look at the related searches that appear at the bottom of the page after you perform a search. You can use any of those or click on each of them for more ideas. Google Keyword Planner is a free tool that provides keywords for both paid and organic keyword campaigns.
If you want to do research outside of Google, use Answer the Public. Navigate to the site, type in the keyword/topic you want to research, and you’ll see a number of questions that come up about that keyword/topic. They are shown as simple-to-read lists and visually-appealing charts. You don’t have to be an SEO expert to analyze them.
Have a Good Mix of Head Terms and Long-Tail Keywords
Head term (short-tail keywords) and long-tail keywords are important to any keyword strategy. Here are the basic definitions of each and how they perform in searches:
- Head terms are short keyword phrases used in searches. They are typically three words or less, and are more general search phrases. For instance, “marketing services” is a head term. Typically, head terms are high volume, high competition, low focus, high cost and have a low conversion rate. It takes much longer and is much more complicated to rank high for head terms, since there is a lot of competition out there. However, if you do reach the top of the SERP with a head term, you are doing extremely well with your keyword strategy.
- Long-tail keywords are much more specific and consist of more than three words. For instance, a long-tail keyword would be, “marketing services for small businesses in Texas.” Long-tail keywords are typically low volume, low competition, high focus, low cost and have a high conversion rate.
Make sure you have a well-balanced mix of head terms and long-tail keywords in your strategy. If you’re just starting out, it’s better to focus on the latter, because there’s a higher chance you’ll rank well and draw in your audience. Once you’ve built up momentum, you can go ahead and attempt to rank for the head terms.
Getting Started with Keyword Research
With these free and paid tools and information on keyword research, you should now have a list of keywords to work with that are relevant to your business. Use an editorial calendar template so you can organize your keywords and monitor which ones you’re currently using. Be sure to rework your keywords every so often to keep your website and content fresh and up to date. Only then will you keep rising on Google and capture the attention of valuable customers around the world.