SEO Guide: How To Perform Keyword Research

One constant feature of SEO is that it is always responding to some change or another in Google’s search algorithms. In kind of a timeless story of a dog chasing its own tail, SEO professionals always have their work cut out for them when Google rolls out a new update and changes the way things work in regard to SEO topics like keywords and so forth. Some things, however, really do remain the same no matter how much other elements change.

In this article, we’re going to talk about keyword research, which is something that’s a little different than it used to be because of a change in how Google works. It’s important to note, however, that while the process for keyword research has changed, its necessity has not, and doing it is just as important as it always has been to really succeed when using keywords in SEO.

The real importance of keyword research is that you can narrow down the keywords that you’re planning on using as a part of your SEO campaign. Since keywords are so central to the ability of SEO to do its job at all, picking the correct keywords is a really important step in effectively conducting SEO work. This means that researching which keywords to use is possibly the most important piece of groundwork you’ll have to do at all. In this article, we’ll lay out a method for researching effective keywords in a number of simple steps.

Brainstorm relevant topics

The first step is to think generally. Pin down your topic, sure, but don’t feel constrained by anything – after all, this is just brainstorming and you’ll have plenty of time to narrow things down later. Obviously, you’ll want whatever you’re talking about to be relevant to your business, but other than that, the sky is the limit. These can be as generic as “email marketing,” “lead generation,” “marketing automation,” and so forth. The important part is that it gets you thinking about what you want to do and write about.

List keywords under each topic

keywordsNow that you have a number of topics (probably five to ten) that you think you might actually want to write about, start listing keywords under each of them. Again, this can be fairly general in its scope, but you do want to practice writing specific and targeted keywords, so those should be fairly specific. This can be a little tough, but it’s good practice. The point of this is to make keyword phrases that you think other people will end up searching. Remember that this isn’t a final list, just keywords that you’re thinking about looking into. Make sure you’ve come up with search terms for each one of your topics before moving on.

This can be a way to fill out the lists in the previous step, or to test how close you came in your guessing about popular search terms. It can be a good idea to look into search terms related to the ones you’ve already come up with. This can not only give you more ideas for keywords, but it can also test out how well the keywords that you’ve come up with on your own, test out when you actually use them in a search.

Make sure when Googling, to scroll down the bottom of the search results page, where you’ll find a list of related search items that you can peruse. It’s also worthwhile to note that there are plenty of analytic tools out there specifically geared toward looking into keywords, which can help you in your research. Many of them can tabulate statistics that you wouldn’t be able to see ordinarily.

Look for long-tail keywords and head terms

There are, in general, two types of keywords: long-tail and head terms. The difference between the two is all in their names. Head terms are short phrases, usually no more than three words long. Long-tail keywords, meanwhile, are complete phrases that are much longer.

It’s usually much harder to rank highly for head terms because they’re so general and a lot of people are going to be posting about and searching for very generic topics like, “blogging.” That’s not to say that you don’t want to use them, but you definitely want to involve some long tail keywords as well, because they’ll offer you more specific access to users looking for exactly what you’re doing.

Diversifying your list between these two different types of keywords is an important step in making sure that you’re going to be able to get the most out of your keywords and your research.

Research competitors

Research competitorsThis is really a pretty natural step in the process of researching SEO, or any marketing at all really. Take a look at what your competitors are doing: what’s working? What isn’t? Co-opting ideas from how your competitors or peers are doing their SEO is a pretty standard way of doing things, especially after Google has updated their algorithms. It can also be useful to look at SEO in practice, rather than just thinking about it theoretically, like we’ve been doing up until this point.

Fine tune your keyword list with Google AdWords keyword planner

Once you have your list, you need to start working on narrowing it down. This can seem pretty intimidating, but fortunately, there are a ton of services out there to help you out with it. Programs like Google AdWords or HubSpot’s Keywords app provide quantitative data, similar to the analytics we talked about earlier. Using these programs, you can limit your list to only the most effective keywords, which you can then plan on implementing in your SEO practices.

You are all set!

That’s pretty much it. It’s kind of a lengthy process, but it’s definitely one that’s worth it. SEO remains the foundational element of so much in the way of internet marketing and online presence that it’s crazy to dismiss any advantage you can get when coming up with SEO topics. Keywords are likely going to stay a pretty big part of this, which is why it’s important to stay on top of the algorithm changes and the best methods of accomplishing tasks like this one.

Hopefully, this article has helped you improve your SEO and give you a better idea how to best spend your time when researching keywords!

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