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Why Keyword Research is Important in SEO

Understanding Keyword Research

At the most basic level, the goal of keyword research is to identify the terms and phrases your target audience uses when searching online for product, services, or information.

So, your research should focus on understanding your audiences needs and intent, and then aligning your content to meet these needs. This basic SEO principle is critical in any form of SEO, PPC campaign, or content marketing. The only real point for debate is what approach is best for finding keywords, and whether to focus on keywords or topics, which we will talk about later.

Why Keyword Research Matters

SEO Optimisation: Keywords are a fundamental requirement of any SEO service to helping search engines understand what your content is about, and when it should appear in search results. By targeting the right keywords, it’s possible to increase your visibility within search engine results and consequently attract more organic traffic to your web site.

User Intent Understanding: Keyword research goes far beyond simply finding the popular search terms. It’s also about understanding the user intent behind these searches. Are users looking to buy, learn, or find a specific website? Understanding user intent will help shape you content plan, and significantly improve user dwell time and engagement.

Competitive Analysis: Part of keyword research involves analysing your competitors and other players in the market to gain insight. What keywords are they targeting? How are they ranking? This information can help you identify gaps in your own content strategy providing new areas to opportunity.

Industry Statistics

According to a report from Ahrefs, over 90% of web pages get zero traffic from Google, with poor use of keywords identified as a major contributory factor.

Understanding User Intent

As we have briefly touch upon, intent is extremely important in keyword research as it dictates the purpose of the search query. Intent is one of the main criteria used by search engines to determine which piece of content to display in search results.

Think about the keyword ‘Wireless Speakers’ as an example:

  • If you search for Wireless Speakers, we could presume you are looking purchase the product from a retailer.
  • If you search Best Wireless Speakers, you would be looking to find a product review comparison, typically with a recommendation for the best-in-class product.
  • If you search How to Connect Wireless Speakers, you expect to see an informative guide describing how to connect your speakers to a device.

For each of these three scenarios the User Intent is different and as a result so is the format of the content. Search engines need to find up clear user intent signals from your content to provide the best results for the audience.

Categorising Intent

Generally, keyword intent falls into one of four main categories:

  • Informational: The user wants information, How, Why, When, Does etc…
  • Navigational: The search is for a specific location or website, like “Facebook login” or “cinema near me”.
  • Transactional: The intent is to make a purchase, “buy iPhone 12.”
  • Commercial: The user intends to research before purchasing, “best speaker” or “Apple vs Android”.

How To Use Different Types of Intent

  1. Use Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs): If you have a keyword and want to maximise it’s potential, then check what type of content is currently appearing at the top of search results. This will be a clear indication of how people use a keyword of phrase.
  2. Consider the User Journey: It’s a good idea to write information-based content to capture an audience at the early stage of their journey, and then transfer them over to more transactional or commercial content further down the sales funnel.
  3. Review Internal Search Data: If your website has a search function, analyse the query string they are typing in, using Google Analytics. This can give you a direct insight into the real intent of your audience, removing the guesswork.
  4. Contextual Analysis: Sometimes, the intent isn’t clear from the keyword alone. Look at the context in which the keyword is used to better understand the user’s goal.
  5. Segment Keywords by Intent: Once you have the concept of user intent in hand, plan a content strategy that covers all aspect of your audience intent. This will give you the maximum potential of reaching your audience and creating engagement.

Incorporating Long-Tail Keywords

Building intent into your query will often create low competition long tail keywords. For example, “What are the Best Wireless Speakers for outdoors”. This is a clear transactional keyword, that focuses on product for outdoor use. By using a more defined phrase like this, you will find it much easier to place your content higher up in search engine results.

Keyword Research: A Different Perspective

Keyword research is a cornerstone of any holistic SEO content strategy. But let’s pause and rethink this for a minute. Is taking this narrow focus on keywords limiting your potential success?

While the goal of keyword research is to align our content to meet our audience’s use of language and their intent, it can often shut down broader opportunities. Is it right to box yourself into using a specific term or phrase based on an SEO tools estimated search volume.

This approach can stifle creativity and miss out on the broader context of user experience. Or worse it can steer your content in the same direction as the thousands of content creators that got to the keyword before you.

Why We Need to Look Beyond Keywords

  1. Evolution of Search Algorithms

Search engines have evolved extensively over the past 10 years, going way beyond simply matching keywords. Now, they are understanding context, user intent, and by using behaviour metrics they can estimate the quality of content.

  1. Future Proof You Content

Look what’s coming to your screen soon…Voice Search, AI Search, a proliferation of search engine platforms…the point is, content needs to incorporate different types off natural language to be ready for what’s around the corner. Maybe there will be a time when using high volume keywords becomes irrelevant.

  1. User Experience Over Keywords

In your pursuit of keyword optimisation, are you forgetting the user experience? Google seems to think so, and demonstrates this with every Core Update, where over-optimised web pages are losing traffic. Content produced for search engines can feel robotic, and no longer seems to resonate audiences.

  1. The Limitation of Competitive Analysis

There’s no doubt understanding competitor keywords is useful, but it can often lead to a predictable content strategy, and high levels of similar content. Everyone is chasing the same keywords and wondering why their industry is so competitive.

How can your content stand out if we’re all following the same playbook?

A Thought-Provoking Statistic

Ahrefs report that keywords with 10 or less searches per month, account for 95% of all keywords. This indicates that most search queries are long tail or phrases. Which is significant as long-tail phrases being closer to natural language, than primary keywords. Which by the way is also the primary mode on language for Voice Search.

Rethinking Our Approach to Keyword Volume

Instead of a being focus on high volume keywords, consider adopting a broader perspective. Think about the user experience, natural language phrases, a more organic quality of content, and a unique value propositions as your primary drivers. By doing this, you can discover new opportunities and connect with your audience on a deeper level.

9 Ways to Find Keywords and Topics

SEO professionals each have their own spin on the most effective method of keyword research. This will typically be based on their end goal, and level of experience. No matter whether you take the more conventional route of search high volume keywords, or prefer to focus on broad topics, bot approaches need a starting point.

Here are 9 simple methods to get your keyword research started.  

  1. Keyword Research Tools: Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Moz Keyword Explorer all provide a level of insight into possible keywords, their search volume, level of competition, and associated terms or synonyms. These tools can help you identify both high-volume keywords and long-tail keywords with less competition.
  2. Analyse Your Competitors: Putting your competitor’s domain into SEMrush or Ahrefs to see their top performing keywords and pages is always a good place to start. You can find new topics, or low competition terms that may be worth writing about.
  3. Google Autocomplete: Start typing a keyword into Google’s search bar and watch the autocomplete suggest variations. This can offer valuable insights to related subjects or reveal low volume terms that SEO tools often overlook. You can also use Google’s Related Searches as inspiration around a seed keyword.
  4. Use Question Tools: AnswerThePublic and AlsoAsked.com offer unique and informative search term maps, revealing the questions people are asking around primary keywords. You can find the What, How, and Why type queries.
  5. Forums: Platforms like Reddit, Quora, and other industry-specific forums are full of real-world questions, that can be extremely valuable for keyword ideas. Look at the questions people are using in discussions or reviews and write content that comprehensive answers them.
  6. Google Trends: You can find breakout trends or seasonal patterns using Google trends. There are also useful geographic splits and comparisons to give you a feel for the search terms trending up or down in your region.
  7. Browser Extensions: Extensions like Keywords Everywhere provide instant keyword data directly within your browser. Data such as search volume and CPC are available for most countries.
  8. Google Search Console: The answer is often right under your nose. Look at your own Google insight data to find queries where your content is creating impressions. You can find real gems, that are already within touching distance.
  9. Social Media: In some industries the latest trends have a habit of appearing on social media. Early adopters can pick up very low competition search terms by producing written content off the back of what’s trending.