For SEO content marketers hoping to increase their ranking on major search engines, Keyword Research has been proven to be the first and major underlining factor in making it to the first top page in Google's ranking. Keyword Research has been used among online marketers from the inception of digital marketing and, as such, its importance can never be over-emphasized. But the methods of researching keywords have changed with time due to recent continuous algorithm updates from Google. This article contains an overview of all there is to know about this high-ranking technique.
What is a Keyword?
In the simplest terms, a Keyword is a specific term that people enter into search engines when looking for something relating to the subject. Different users have different intents on what they want to do with their search results when they input a keyword. This is why Google and other search engines now grade contents based on the keywords with higher user intent and uniqueness of the content as it relates to the user's needs. A keyword gives an insight into the body of a document. They are used when retrieving information about a particular topic in a catalog or search engine.
Types of Keywords
In SEO, keywords can be categorized into three types based on their competitiveness, length, search volume, and conversion. The types are discussed below.
Basic Keywords: These are keywords that are single words. They are usually the main keywords with high search volumes and are highly competitive. Other names for such keywords are “Head Terms”, “Index Terms”, and “Short-Tail Keywords”. These head terms do not bring enough conversions on search engines except used by sites with high authorities e.g. Wikipedia. Another reason why using the single-word keyword might not put your website on the first page of Google’s ranking is because it does not specify the searcher intent well enough. For instance, for a keyword like, ”Banking", the searcher might have vast intents like banking as a career, importance of banking, the impact of banking sectors in the U.S, and much more. Therefore it would be more advisable to use alternative keywords with more words that can narrow the user intent based on your website niche.
Subject Keywords: These keywords, otherwise known as “Body Keywords”, and “Middle-Tailed Keywords” are short phrases of 2-3 words that are more direct about the user intent than the Single-word keyword. It also has a high search volume but not as high as the single-word keyword. It has lesser competition with other sites. An example of the body keyword is “Banking Sectors". When users enter these keywords, it brings out more narrow searches related to the banking sector.
Alternative keywords: These keywords are usually 4 words and above in length. They have the least search volume because the individual terms that make up the long phrased keywords do not gain much search volume online. But when added together in a long-phrase they gain enough search users. This also makes them the least competitive with many big sites. But they are usually the most direct and specific to the user's intent. As such, it is best for SEO content professionals looking to optimize their sites. It is also known as ‘Long-tailed Keywords” or “Descriptors”. A typical example of such a keyword is "the economic impact on the banking sector." You find that this keyword is very specific to a particular topic.
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword Research is the process of finding alternative keywords people enter in search engines with the intent to create optimized content that will be ranked high on search engines and increase traffic on websites.
Keyword Research is the most basic aspect of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It is the very first step to take before concentrating on other tasks like creating topics, on-page SEO, link building, advert, and promotion. Researching for an ideal keyword will give the online marketer insights into how to create content that is both useful to the user and the search engine. It is often difficult at times to find an ideal keyword for a topic that will hit the first 10 lists on the search engine. Most head keywords are usually very difficult to compete with. So while doing keyword research for SEO, the best type of keywords to look for are "Alternative keywords". These are mostly the long-tailed keywords. Keywords that have low search results but have related meaning to the main keywords are the best for SEO. Keyword Research also helps the SEO marketer discover the users’ intent, like:
What the people are searching for?
Why are they searching for it?
What do they want to use the information for?
How many people are searching for this information?
How do they want this information crafted?
So, for a marketer or website owner to discover a seller keyword, he has to fully understand the target audience and the company’s goal and aim.
The History of Keyword Research
Although keyword research has always been on the frontline of a successful website, it was not always user intent-based. In the past, most webmasters and online marketers used a tactic known as “Keyword stuffing”. This process involved creating content where the keywords are highlighted visibly as many times as possible, using bold fonts or italicized fonts. The keywords were often loaded into the web page’s content body or backlinks to attract traffic to their site crookedly. Most of the times these keywords are inefficient and useless to the message of the content, but the amount of the stuffed keyword on that page helped to drag traffic to their site.
A case study: A Cake Making Industry, known as The Cake World, wants to create content on their website to endear people to their site. The title and body of the content center on “Different ways to serve your cake”. The industry researches keywords and finds out that the keyword “Strawberry” has a very large search volume. In the content, they put the term "strawberry” as many times as possible throughout the body of the visible content and backlinks and meta tags, whether it relates to the content or not. When people enter the keyword “strawberry" it directs them to the site only to realize that they did not get what they were looking for. But the site keeps getting enough traffic because people keep visiting the page.
This method was really working until Google finally discovered this crooked means that websites used to opt their ranking on search engines. Algorithms were then created to detect such web spamming and websites that were guilty of such were banned or penalized. Nowadays, search engines grade website content based on the quality, uniqueness, and relevance to the user. Keyword Research this present time, now focuses more on finding subject terms that people are looking for and create content around such terms that pertain to the goal of the website. Google and most search engines aim at providing the needs of the users. By assisting them in achieving that aim, your website will definitely rank high in their search index.
Detecting “Keyword Stuffing"
To checkmate and detect websites who still try to improve their ranking by using 'Keyword stuffing", most search engines have designed different algorithms that are updated from time to time to achieve this aim. Some of which are:
Google Panda (released February 2011)
Google Florida Update (released November 2003)
Google Hummingbird (released August 2013)
Bing’s Update (released September 2014).
Stages Involved in Keyword Research
There are important steps to take to discover amazing keyword ideas for SEO. Researching for high-ranking keywords is beyond the content crafting. Here is a step-wise approach on how best to go about researching for the perfect keyword.
Understand your target audience
The first step to take in discovering the best keyword for our website content is to study the target market of your business. Create a bio persona that describes the type of people that would visit your site and what they would expect to see, what they would expect to gain. Find out the terms they use as regards your business, how they pronounce, or call some terms. The bio persona will help specify the content you are going to create to that particular niche. Also, visit other websites or forums and check the topics that fall with the niche of your business. This will help you find the perfect topic for your content.
Outline your Mission
When starting up a business, one of the important things to state is your long and short term goals. Also to market your business online, you have to know what you want to offer to the customers; know what you want to achieve. For instance, do you want users to visit your page and buy goods? Do you want to provide information about your services? What would you want to be known for? Once you have been able to outline your mission and long term goals. It will be easier to strategize and create SEO content that will revolve around your goals.
Brainstorm on Content topics
The next step is to think and draft out diverse topics relating to your business. It is necessary to think outside the box to be able to create unique content that will still be useful to your business. These topics will then help you select appropriate keywords.
After writing down lists of broad topics, the next thing to do is to pick out keywords from these topics. These keywords need to meet the needs of the target audience also. That is, it has to be in context with what your bio personas will be searching online. These keywords are the main keywords that will be the bedrock in finding alternative keywords for your SEO content.
Use Long-tail Keywords
While selecting your keywords from your topic, try to add additional filters to them to find long-phrase keywords. These are best for optimizing website content because they have a low percentage of competition while being similar in terms with the main keyword with a higher search volume. So, if you have been able to identify lists of short keywords from your broad topics, consider adding one or two more words to it to find your alternative keyword. This would help you rank high on Google as you provide the users with their needs.
Check for clues
One easy way to pick out high ranking keywords is getting clues from goldmines such as Wikipedia and Google. Wikipedia is a site with high authority online. They have keywords gathered by thousands of experts online. You can get a clue on an alternative keyword by typing a broad keyword in their search box. Once you are directed to page entry for that topic, scroll down to the section tagged "content". This will bring out a list of subtopics under those topics. These subtopics are amazing keywords that can be used with less competition. Also for Google, once you insert a broad keyword, when you scroll down, they show you other related topics. Alternative keywords can be discovered from those related topics.
Discover the User Intent
Nowadays, fusing large amounts of irrelevant keywords into a website content awkwardly is no longer in vogue since Google has changed its terms of ranking content. So if you want to improve your website traffic, it is mandatory to understand the user intent as it relates to your business. This involves knowing the keywords your visitors are searching for, the purpose of their search, what they want to do with the information, how they search for it (singular or plural), etc. Once you have been able to figure these out, then you will be a step closer to finding your ideal alternative keyword.
Use Keyword Research tools
This is a much faster method of drafting high-ranking keywords. After streamlining your topics and keyword ideas to suit your business and brand, you could use different keyword tools to select the best keyword for your content. This will help fine-tune your keywords. Most of these tools have different strategies used in producing alternative keywords or additional ideas on more keywords to be used. These keyword tools also help you figure out the user/searcher intent as relating to your business. While some are free, some are paid for.
Some of these tools include:
Run background checks on your competitors
To find very good keywords, it is necessary to constantly observe your competitors that create content that relates to your business - especially those with high authority. Check their content, their ranking, the keywords people use to take them to the sites, how people input their keywords to lead them to their sites. This would help you know keywords that are difficult to rank when you use them for your content. It will then guide you in discovering related keywords that are low in competition.
Things to Consider When Researching on a Keyword
In researching for the perfect keywords for your business content, some things need to be considered to further improve your ranking on Google and other search engines. Here are those considerations:
Search Volume and Competition- The best keywords to find that will help improve your search optimization are usually those that have lesser volume but are still related to your content. So when finding your keyword for your business content, it is best to consider this and stick to the long-phrased keywords. These have lesser competition than the single-worded keywords.
The Click-through-Rates-(CTR) - You might have selected the perfect alternative keyword that is long-phrase and meets the user’s intent. But it may not be the best for your website. Why? This is because most websites that make it to the first ten pages have featured ads and snippets. And Google favors such websites and pushes them first on the list before others. So if you use keywords similar to those used by these sites and have no ads or promotional features on your sites, your CTR might not be great, even if you reach the top ten list. So it is best to pick keywords that would give you a better CTR since it will drive more customers to your site.
Return on Investment- If your major aim for the SEO is to generate profit, then your perfect keyword should be able to drive customers to your site that will be able to buy your products or services online. You have to look beyond low search volume to pick terms that will generate income when users enter the keywords on search engines.
Keyword research remains one of the most crucial aspects of SEO and it has evolved over the years. Since search engines have updated their criteria in ranking contents, various online marketers and SEO professionals now focus their keyword research on the intent of the user, the context, and how it fits the business. These keywords can also be tracked using tools like Google Trends. This helps to determine whether users are still making use of the keyword or have stopped entering.
To keep hitting the top list in the Google ranking, it is best advised to stay up-to-date with updated content marketing tools and algorithms. Also, constantly research tricks and perks to create the perfect traffic generating content with the ideal keyword. Then, you will truly get the best results from your Keywords.