It is widely known in the Digital Marketing World that many ‘actions’ are triggered by keywords. Whether these are typed as queries in the Google search box or as questions in Quora or even Facebook, keywords show the intent of the user and that’s why they are very important.
The way the Internet works today and despite the huge rise of social media networks, people still use search engines to query the Web. Whenever they have a question or need to learn something about a topic they will open a search engine, type their query and expect to find an accurate answer in the returned results that will satisfy their intent.
Some search engines (think Google), are able to make their users happy more than others. With more than 65% of the search engine market share, Google managed to associate their name with the Internet. Many people tend to say ‘Google it’ or ‘search it on Google’ but what they really mean is find it on the Internet.
This tremendous success of Google and its establishment as the main way to find something online, has led to another non-questionable fact: Any type of website cannot succeed or grow without Google love.
You may have read success stories on how websites make money from Facebook or Pinterest traffic but in the vast majority of cases success comes through getting organic traffic from Google.
This is not only true because of the millions of queries that are executed in Google search each day but because Google searchers have a clear intent in mind when they type a query. This makes it easier for you (the blogger, ecommerce store owner, etc.), to satisfy their intent and win loyal visitors, subscribers, customers and fulfil your website’s objectives and goals.
What is Keyword Research?
I made the small introduction above so that is easier to explain what we mean when we talk about keyword research. People that have experience online can understand this process and appreciate its necessity but from questions I get from clients and readers, it is obvious that many beginners don’t understand it.
Keyword research is a process that involves using various tools and techniques, to find out what users are actually searching for different topics. In other words, what do they type in Google when they want more information about something and what is their intent.
By knowing the exact keywords that users type in the search box, we can provide them with relevant content that can satisfy their needs.
If your SEO is good and effective, search engines will gradually discover that your website has content that can satisfy their users and this is a win-win situation. Search engines make their users happy and we are happy because search engines send us traffic.
How to perform keyword research Step By Step
I will demonstrate the process with a step by step example on how I do keyword research for my fitness blog.
Step 1: Get to know your niche
Open a new browser window, navigate to Google.com and try to think like a user. What kind of searches would a user perform related to your niche? What ever comes in mind, Google it and visit the websites that show up on the top 5 positions.
In our example the niche is fitness, nutrition and weight loss so a first guess is to start with queries like “How to lose weight”, “weight loss”, “weight loss tips”, “fitness” etc.
Let’s see what kind of results we get.
You will notice that the first 10 results for each of these keywords are occupied by big and well-known websites like webmd, mayoclinic, government websites, rd.com, authoritynutirtion.com, health.com, prevention and Wikipedia.
Why this is not good for us? For a very simple reason. These websites have thousands of pages to the Google index and hundreds of incoming links to their content. Google trusts them and that’s why they get the first positions for these kind of searches.
So, our chances to outrank those websites with our newly established blog or ‘regular’ website are limited to not existent.
What is the solution this problem? Continue our keyword research and try to find keywords that we can rank high in Google.
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Make no mistake, despite the huge competition on the Internet and the high number of websites publishing content about a topic, there are still opportunities to achieve high rankings for good keywords without having a well-known or large website.
Step 2: The Google keyword tool
The best and most reliable tool for keyword research is the ‘Google keyword tool’. The tool is provided by Google for free and it allows you to search for a keyword and see the number of monthly searches for the particular keyword on Google (in different regions and different languages).
The primary purpose of the tool is to help you with finding keywords for your PPC campaigns but it is also used for doing keyword research for SEO purposes.
Go to https://www.google.com/sktool and login with your Google account.
You will be presented with a number of options. You can learn more about what each option does here, but for our purposes select “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category”.
Type in our first keyword “how to lose weight” and click the GET IDEAS button.
Click the KEYWORD IDEAS TAB to see what people type in Google related to “how to lose weight”.
You will see that “how to lose weight” is a very popular keyword. There are around 450,000 searches for this keyword per month. This is good in terms of potential traffic but it’s also bad since popular keywords have a lot of competition i.e. a lot of other websites (as we saw above), are competing for this keyword.
Hint: If you are targeting audience on a specific region or language adjust the keyword tool options through the targeting settings on the right sidebar.
Since our chances of ranking for this keyword are limited, we should continue our research to find out more realistic opportunities.
Scroll down through the list and try to find long tail keywords. These are queries that include more than 3 keywords. For example, “how to lose weight in a week” or “how many calories to lose weight”, “how to lose weight in 2 weeks”.
Why long tail keywords? Long tail keywords have less search volume but they are easier to rank.
Let’s get the first one “how to lose weight in a week” and go back to Google to see what we have in the top positions.
The situation is similar as before, big websites occupy the first positions.
Scroll down the Google search results and find “Related Searches”, located at the bottom of the page.
“Related Searches” shows other related keywords to your search that are usually long tail keywords.
Click on “how to lose 10 pounds in a week” and examine the Search results.
The situation is already better since not all results are captured by big and well known websites.
Let’s go back to the keyword tool and see the monthly search volume for this long tail keyword.
“How to lose 10 pounds in a week” has less traffic than “how to lose weight” but the competition is low. It seems that we are on the right track.
Go back to Google and start typing “how to lose 10 pounds”, you will see that Google suggests 4 ways to complete your query:
All these are long tail keywords. We can examine each and every keyword again through the Google keyword too and also search for them in Google.
As you can see, all four have a decent search volume per month and Google shows a number of different websites in the results that are not from all high authority websites.
Step 3: Create a good title
You can choose any of these and use it to create a good title and superb content to answer the question in the search query.
Let’s say that you select “how to lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks”.
The next step is to come up with an optimized title using the guidelines provided in my previous post: How to SEO your WordPress posts. In summary you title should:
- Include your keywords
- Be descriptive, specific and accurate
- Catchy and interesting
- Around 60 characters
- Not the same as other titles that are already in the search results
- Unique for your website
You can start writing titles down in a piece of paper and if you are stuck with ideas, a good approach to get inspiration is to go to forums and see what people are asking related to the process of losing 10 pounds.
Websites like Quora, Yahoo answers, Reddit, Yahoo search are all great places to get ideas.
While doing this process, you will realize that one of the questions that many people have is whether it is actually possible to lose 10 pounds in just 2 weeks. I found this to be a good candidate for a title. It was not available in the results and it satisfied all the criteria set above.
So, after doing keyword research we decided to go with: “Is it possible to lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks?”
Quick summary of what we have done so far:
- Identified a list of general keywords related to our niche.
- Analyzed the Google search results for those keywords and also their search volume using the Google keyword tool.
- Identified a list of long tail keywords that have low competition but a decent search volume.
- Searched those keywords in Google and also took into account “Related Searches” and “Google auto complete”.
- Repeated the above procedure until we found long tail keywords that are easier to rank. A good sign is that in the Google search results we don’t only see high authority websites.
- Crafted a nice post title that includes our keyword.
Step 4: Write good content
Now that you have your title, the next step is to write the content. Before starting, make sure that you examine each and every page in the Google search results carefully noting the following:
- What type of content do they have (text, images, video etc.)?
- How long is their content (in terms of words)?
- What kind of information is available in the content (Is it a step-by-step guide, is it a how to article etc.)?
You want to know this information for two simple reasons. Your first goal is to make your content better (both in terms of quantity and quality) and increase your chances of outranking the pages already listed on the first page.
Your second goal is to understand the user intent. Google has sophisticated ranking algorithms that try to match search queries with user intent. The results that you see on the first page for each query is what Google believes that satisfies the intent of the user so your content should not be something completely different in meaning.
To prove that the above process works, take a closer look at the top positions for the query “how to lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks” and you will find my article in the first 5 places.
How to Increase your Traffic Using the Above Method?
I use the above process before deciding what to write about in my posts but in order to actually increase your organic traffic you need to take a few more things into account:
Content length: Many studies have shown that longer content tends to perform better in search. Google likes in-depth articles and they also get more shares and likes when promoted in social media.
Frequency: Doing this once in a while it’s not enough. When you regularly publish new posts, you have more chances of getting higher rankings and more traffic.
Type of content: Evergreen content is the type of content you need for long term success. Don’t publish content that will cease to be relevant in a few weeks or months but go after content that is evergreen for a lot of users for years to come.
Get your posts noticed: Publishing is the first part of what you have to do as a webmaster. Promoting your content and getting your posts noticed is the second part of your job that is equally important. Social sharing, link building, off line promoting are all tasks that can help your content rank higher in the SERPS.
Content relevancy: When you choose a topic make sure that is relevant to the existing content of your website. If not, then make sure that your coming posts will build more related articles. Use internal linking to bind your content together and create your own small web about a topic.
In the example above, when I published the post on my website I already had hundreds of other articles related to the topic and this helped a lot in rankings.
Pro tip: A good way to find out what type of content to create so that it fits well with your existing content is to use the Google Search Console and in particular the SEARCH ANALYTICS report.
The search analytics report shows the keywords that already bring traffic to your website from Google. Login to your search console account and click SEARCH ANALYTICS under SEARCH TRAFFIC.
Click on POSITION, select a DATA RANGE and examine your ranking positions in Google for those keywords.
Try to identify keywords that are not long tail keywords, and pass them through the above procedure to come up with long tail keywords that can bring you more traffic.
Since you already have a good ranking for non long tail keywords, you have more chances of ranking high for new content as well.
Getting organic traffic is hard. The competition on the Internet is tough for all topics you can think off so you have to be selective and careful where you spend your time (or money).
By doing keyword research before you write a new post or create a new page you increase your chances of your content being found by search engines and users.
Following this procedure consistently for a number of months you will notice a gradual increase in your organic traffic and this will give you more courage to continue to get even better results.
Don’t rush into conclusion too quickly, SEO takes time to work but it does work and when it does everything else becomes easier.
A final word, don’t forget about the user intent. Don’t just write content to match the results of your keyword research but provide content to keep users happy, satisfy their intent and at the same time fulfill your website’s or business objectives.