Every good digital marketer and SEO knows that keyword research is a crucial first step in any effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. So we put together this keyword research guide.

Think of the old “fail to plan, fail to plan metaphor”. Proper keyword research is your roadmap to excellent SEO.

It helps businesses and website owners understand the terms and phrases that people use to search for products or services like theirs.

When you identify the right keywords, you can improve your chances of ranking higher in search results and attracting more relevant traffic to your website.

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What is Keyword Research?

It’s the process of discovering the terms and phrases that people use to search for products, services, and information online.

It includes a deep understanding of your customer, their search behaviour and which keywords they will use to find the products and services you offer.

Keyword research helps businesses understand their target audience and the types of queries they use to find what they’re looking for.

Why is Keyword Research Important?

It’s essentially a roadmap for you to follow in your SEO efforts.

Without keyword research, you may be optimizing your website for the wrong keywords, leading to poor search engine rankings and a lack of relevant traffic.

What are the benefits?

       

      • Helps you understand your target audience

      • Provides insight into the types of queries people use to find products or services

      • Helps you optimise your website for the right keywords

      • Improves search engine rankings

      • Attracts more relevant traffic to a website

    How to Conduct Keyword Research

    Step 1: Identify your target audience

    You do know your customer, right?

    Right!?

    Identifying your ideal audience is a crucial step in creating a successful keyword research strategy which resonates with your customer.

    Understanding who your customer is, what their needs and interests are, and what motivates them to take action is crucial in creating relevant and valuable content that resonates with them.

    Not sure how to go about it? Here are a few tips on how to get to know your customer:

    Demographic information: Collect information about the age, gender, location, education level, and income of your ideal audience. You can find this info in your web analytics reports, paid advertising platforms, social media analytics and you can even go old-school and ASK through customer surveys or polls.

    Behavioral patterns: Study the behavior of your ideal customer, including what they do online, their purchase history, and social media activity (all within privacy guidelines and regulations of course). The more you know about how your customer behaves online, the more relevant your keyword lists will be.

    Pain points and challenges: Put yourself in their shoes! Understand the challenges and pain points of your customer. Empathy works wonders and shows you actually do care (and that’s the most powerful marketing tactic there is!).

    Values and beliefs: Identifying the values and beliefs of your target audience is crucial in developing a keywords strategy and creating content that resonates with them. This information can be obtained through surveys, focus groups, and online research.

    Personas: This is a fun exercise! Create personas, or fictional characters that represent your target audience. Make the personas as detailed as possible so you get to really know them. The more you know your customer, the better you’ll be at caring for their needs (which is your ultimate job as a marketer).

    By taking the time to know your customer, you can create a keyword strategy that is tailored to their specific needs and interests, resulting in more relevant keyword targeting, engagement and traffic.

    Step 2: Determine the types of products, services, or information your target audience is searching for

    Use keyword research tools to discover the keywords people use to search for your products or services. This is an important part of keyword research and analysis:

         

        • Analyze the search volume and competition for each keyword

        • Select the keywords with high search volume and low competition

        • Integrate the keywords into your website’s content and meta tags

      Useful Tools

      Let’s unpack some of the best tools for keyword research.

      Google Keyword Planner

      The Google Keyword Planner tool can be found in the Google Ads platform and is a free tool. Google created this tool specifically for advertisers but you can use it for keyword research, for free!

      Here’s how:

           

          1. Set up a Google Ads account: If you don’t already have a Google Ads account, you can sign up for one at https://ads.google.com

          1. Go to the Keyword Planner: Log in to your Google Ads account and click on the “Tools” dropdown menu. Select “Keyword Planner.”

          1. Choose your research goal: You can either search for keywords related to a specific website or product, or find keywords related to a particular phrase or set of words

          1. Enter your keywords or website: In the search field, enter your keywords or website, and select your target location and language

          1. Get keyword ideas: The Keyword Planner will generate a list of keyword ideas, including the average monthly searches, competition, and suggested bid

          1. Analyze keyword data: You can view data such as average monthly searches, competition, and suggested bid for each keyword. Use this information to determine which keywords to target

          1. Save your keywords: You can save the keywords you’re interested in to your “Plans” to access them later

        SEMrush

        SEMrush is a popular tool that gives you insights on search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC), and content marketing.

        Here’s how you can use SEMrush as part of your keyword research process:

             

            1. Create an account: Go to SEMrush.com and sign up for a free or paid account

            1. Navigate to Keyword Research: On the left-side menu, select “Keyword Research”

            1. Enter a keyword or a website: In the search bar, type in a keyword related to your niche or a website URL to get keyword ideas

            1. Analyze keyword data: SEMrush will show you a list of keywords related to your search, including monthly search volume, competition level, and estimated cost per click

            1. Refine your keyword list: You can refine your keyword list based on various parameters like search volume, keyword difficulty, and more

            1. Get keyword trends: SEMrush also provides information on keyword trends over time, which can help you determine which keywords to target in your SEO or PPC campaigns

            1. Export your keyword data: You can export the keyword data to a CSV file for further wrangling

          AHREFS

          AHREFS is a powerful keyword research tool that provides in-depth analysis of keyword data and backlink profiles. It’s used by SEO professionals and digital marketers to improve their search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.

          Here’s how you can use AHREFS for keyword research:

          First, create an account: Go to AHREFS.com and sign up for a paid account (they no longer offer free accounts).

          Next, head over to Keyword Explorer.

          Enter a keyword or website: Type in a keyword related to your niche or a website URL to get keyword ideas.

          Check out the keyword data. AHREFS will show you a list of keywords related to your search, including monthly search volume, keyword difficulty, and estimated cost per click.

          Now you can refine your keyword list: You can refine your keyword list based on various parameters like keyword difficulty, search volume, and more.

          This leads into the next step: keyword trends. AHREFS also provides information on keyword trends over time, which can help you determine which keywords to target in your SEO or PPC campaigns.

          Keep an eye on keyword ranking: With AHREFS, you can also monitor your website’s keyword ranking and track its performance over time.

          Overall, AHREFS is a comprehensive tool that provides a wealth of information on keywords, backlinks, and website ranking. Whether you’re a seasoned SEO professional or just starting out, AHREFS can help you identify opportunities for improvement and drive results in your SEO and PPC campaigns.

          Moz Keyword Explorer

          The Moz Keyword Explorer tool is very similar to the tools above and offers excellent information and insight, although SEMRush and AHREFS are more popular in the SEO world. Moz offers a free and paid version.

          Other free tools:

          Ubersuggest: This tool from Neil Patel provides a list of keyword suggestions based on your search term, as well as data on estimated search volume, cost per click, and competition level.

          Keyword.io: This tool provides keyword suggestions and information on search volume, competition level, and estimated cost per click.

          AnswerThePublic: This tool provides a visual representation of keyword questions and prepositions related to your search term, which can be useful for content creation.

          WordStream Keyword Tool: This tool provides keyword suggestions based on your search term, as well as data on estimated search volume and competition level.

          KeywordsEverywhere.com is a great tool and Chrome extension that integrates into your search experience to make life easy!

          Keywords for PPC Campaigns

          Keywords are also incredibly important for pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.

          Why?

          PPC advertising allows you to target specific keywords and reach your target audience through paid search ads.

          By conducting relevant research, you can identify the most profitable keywords to target in your PPC campaigns and maximize your return on investment (ROI).

          How about Local SEO?

          Local SEO is important if you operate in a specific geographic location.

          When you target local keywords, you can improve visibility in local search results and reach a local audience interested in your products or services.

          For example, a local bakery might target keywords like “bakery near me” or “best bakery in [city name]” to attract customers nearby.

          User Experience

          Keyword research is not just about improving your website’s ranking in search engine results pages, it’s also about improving user experience.

          When you optimise your content around relevant keywords people are searching and then show them content that delivers on the promise made by your keywords, you improve the overall user experience and build brand trust.

          In summary then…

          You’ve got to understand the needs and interests of your target audience so that you can create content that provides value and engages them. This can help to increase conversions and sales, and improve your entire digital marketing performance.

          Got any advice of your own? Leave them in the comments below.

          Got an opinion about the best keyword tools? Let us know.

          About the author : Tony Lopes

          Tony Lopes is an expert digital marketer who has worked across competitive industries since 2003. His broad experience covers SEO, Content Marketing, PPC, Email Marketing and Marketing Analytics. He works with sustainable, purpose-driven clients across the world and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa with his wife, daughters and Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

          About the author : Tony Lopes

          Tony Lopes is an expert digital marketer who has worked across competitive industries since 2003. His broad experience covers SEO, Content Marketing, PPC, Email Marketing and Marketing Analytics. He works with sustainable, purpose-driven clients across the world and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa with his wife, daughters and Rhodesian Ridgebacks.