A Guide to Keyword Research for SEO

by Patrick Chen

What is keyword research and why is it important?
SEO includes keyword research (search engine optimization). It’s the process of coming up with a long list of keywords for which a website should be ranked. Website owners must delve into their target audience and search engines to compile such a list. What search keywords do individuals use to find their products, services, businesses, or organisations on Google? And what do they hope to discover? Website owners may use this list to produce content that will drive more high-quality visitors to their site. Keyword research is never complete: it must be repeated on a regular basis to stay current!

What is the significance of keyword research?
Keyword research is crucial because it reveals what search phrases your target audience uses. At Yoast, we regularly saw business owners who described their goods using one set of terms while their target audience used a whole other set. As a result of the mismatch in word use, potential consumers were unable to discover such websites.

For example, a marketing department could decide to give a product a unique name. This might be a wise marketing move, since people will be more likely to remember your goods. You could stand out if you rent out holiday cottages rather than vacation homes. But be cautious: just a small percentage of individuals look for [holiday villas]. If you optimise your text for this phrase, you’ll most likely score highly for it. However, this phrase will not produce a lot of traffic, and you will lose out on a significant portion of your prospective audience since they use different terms.

You’re undoubtedly aware that optimising for terms that aren’t often used makes little sense. Thorough keyword research ensures that you utilise the same terms as your target audience, making the entire process of website optimisation much more beneficial. Furthermore, by examining search intent, you may learn exactly what your target audience is looking for. Those questions should be answered with high-quality information.

The fundamentals of keyword research
Before we get started with keyword research, let’s go over some fundamental concepts:

A focus keyword, also known as a key phrase, is a term or phrase that you want Google to find a certain page on your site for. By conducting keyword research, you may come up with a list of target keywords.

Long-tail keywords are more specialised and less frequently searched than head keywords. They concentrate on a certain market. Because there would be less competition, ranking for longer and more specialised search keywords will be simpler. Despite the fact that fewer individuals are looking for these phrases, they may be more inspired to buy, subscribe, join up, or do whatever you want.

The judgments you make based on your keyword research make up your keyword strategy. What kind of content are you planning to make first, for example? Will you pay attention to the head or the tail? What method will you use to publish it, and where will you put it? Will you write an article, a blog post, a product page, a video instruction, or an infographic?

The trick here is to dig into search intent: you need to figure out what a searcher really wants or needs. You’re not just looking at keywords; you’re also looking at what a searcher wants to know, do, or purchase. The answer to the searcher’s “issue” should be provided by your content. This is often referred to as content creation.

What is the procedure for conducting keyword research?
When conducting keyword research, we feel there are eight critical procedures to follow. Here, we’ll walk you through each stage of the process and provide you with helpful hints for getting started with your own keyword research:

Make a mission statement.
Consider your objective before you begin anything. Consider questions like: What is your company’s or organization’s main goal? What makes it unique? Who are you attempting to contact? What promises do you make on your website, for example? Take your time and write down your objective in its entirety. You’ll have completed the first and most crucial phase in your keyword strategy once you’ve answered these questions thoroughly.

The market in which you operate impacts whether or not your goal will be considered brilliant enough to achieve top rankings. Large corporations dominate the search results in some areas, making them extremely competitive. These businesses have large marketing costs in general, and SEO spending in particular. Competing in these markets is difficult, therefore ranking in these markets will be difficult as well.

Perhaps you sell Hawaii cruises. You provide excellent child-friendly amenities, making your cruises particularly appealing to young or single parents. Offering the best Hawaii cruises for young parents might be what sets your company apart. So, search for the feature that distinguishes your goods from the competitors. This should represent your goal, your speciality, and what you have to offer your target market.

If you’re entering a competitive market, starting small is the smartest way to go. You might try to level up and sell your cruises to a broader (more general) audience after you ‘own’ a tiny part of that niche and become a bigger brand in the industry of cruises to Hawaii. The scope of your goal will broaden as a result.

Make a keyword list.
The second step is to make a list of your keywords in a spreadsheet, either Google Sheets or Excel. Try to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience while keeping your objective in mind. What will these individuals be on the lookout for? What type of search phrases may people use to find your fantastic service or product? Which of their “issues” does your solution address? Make a list of as many answers as you can. You’ll have a very good idea of your speciality and unique selling qualities if your purpose is clear (the things that set your business apart from others). These are the keywords for which you wish to be found.

Do some keyword research.
It’s time to delve a little further into your keywords now that you’ve made this initial list. Fortunately, there are certain tools that may help you with your keyword research.

The first is, of course, Google. While typing, Google the terms you’ve previously come up with and see what searches Google proposes. Those are the exact questions Google was asked! On Google’s results page, you may also look at the “similar searches.” Also, have a look at Yoast SEO’s related key tool or Answer the public.

These tools will offer you with a wide range of key variants, synonyms, and related key terms. Examine them and make a list of all the relevant keywords. More information on how to use these and other tools may be found in our page on keyword research tools.

Don’t forget about long-tail keywords.
When individuals first start researching keywords, they tend to focus on the most popular “head” terms. Unfortunately, huge corporations have a monopoly on those top terms. Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, receive less search traffic while also having less competition. As a result, ranking for such keywords will be easy for you. Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, offer a greater conversion value since they are more focused on a certain product or topic: a niche!

A long-tail keyword is usually more specific and lengthier than a head phrase. A long-tail keyword for [puppy training] may be [positive puppy training for Labradoodles in Amsterdam]. You can uncover more long-tail versions of your keywords by using the tools indicated in step 3.

Remember to include the long-tail keywords in your spreadsheet as well. Add (many) columns for long-tail keywords after the head phrases in the first column. This will also aid in the creation of an appropriate site structure in the future. The farther down your site’s structure your landing page is, the more long-tail your search phrase is.

Examine the opposition.
It is highly dependent on your competition if you should go after long-tail keywords. If your niche has a lot of competition, ranking on competitive head phrases will be difficult. You’ll be able to rank for more of your head phrases if you have minimal competition. As a result, you’ll need to conduct some SEO benchmarking.

Use Google to look up the terms you discovered throughout your keyword research. Begin with your most esoteric phrase. Take a look at the results page of a search engine (SERP). These are the sites you’ll be up against if you optimise your content for a term like this. Take a closer look at the following: Do you come across any professional websites? What about company websites? Are you on a par with these businesses? Is your website a good fit for these sites? Is your business the same size as ours, and do you have the same amount of clout in your field?

When you’re up against sites with well-known brands, ranking is more difficult. If your brand is well-known due to television or radio advertisements, your chances of ranking high will be much slimmer. However, taking a peek at their material isn’t a bad idea. Is the material well-written and search-engine-friendly? If your competitors’ material is bad, you might be able to outrank them!

Also, take a look at Google’s advertisements. Do you have any? You can check the pay-per-click if you have a Google Ads account. High-pay-per-click search keywords are typically more difficult to rank for in organic results.

Make sure to record your findings for the terms you’ve looked into in your spreadsheet!

Examine search intent in further detail.
The majority of today’s SEO tactics should centre around answering people’s inquiries or giving the greatest solution to their “issue.” When someone types a search query into a search engine, they’re looking for something specific. Every sort of question necessitates a unique response.

Try to figure out what your audience is looking for when they put a specific keyword into Google. Do they have an informative intent (searching for information on a certain topic), a navigational intent (wanting to get to a specific website), a commercial intent (wanting to investigate something before buying), or a transactional intent (wanting to buy something right now)?

By examining the kind of pages that already rank for a query, you may learn more about the search intent of that query. Do you spend most of your time looking at product pages? Or perhaps a slew of informative blog posts? Do you have access to videos? Is it a combination of the two? These are all clues as to what Google thinks a query’s search intent is. This article demonstrates how to produce outstanding content that meets the correct purpose by utilising search results.

Determine which types of intent are applicable to your key words and, once again, record your findings in your spreadsheet!

Choose a keyword approach.
You can devise a keyword strategy based on the information you’ve gathered so far. If you followed the steps above, you should have a spreadsheet with a large number of keywords, as well as information on the competition and your audience’s search intent for those keywords.

Consider this: How does my website stack up against the websites that appear in the SERPs? If you have a similar size and marketing budget, go ahead and concentrate on those key phrases. If it doesn’t work, try using more long-tail keywords. Concentrating on a large number of long-tail keywords might result in a large amount of traffic. It will be simpler to target additional head phrases once you’ve ranked for those long-tail keywords.

When you’ve determined where to start, consider the following types of content: What was the purpose of my key’s search? What is it that my target audience is seeking for? But also, what material can I generate that isn’t already there, and how can I differentiate myself in terms of quality or solutions? This will assist you in determining the sort of material you will write.

Begin creating landing pages.
This stage, in principle, is outside the scope of keyword research. Nonetheless, if you want to drive visitors to your website, you must create fantastic landing pages. As a result, you’ll need to construct landing pages for your search keywords, but you don’t have to do it right away — it may be a long-term project. Prioritize with the aid of your keyword strategy. Create a nice landing page and use the Yoast Duplicate Post plugin to rapidly duplicate it.

You’ll build cornerstone content pieces for your most essential keywords, articles that give the finest possible information regarding that keyword – authoritative and all-encompassing. This cornerstone material will be linked to in all of your supporting, more long-tail pieces. Internal linking should be a component of your overall plan, which Yoast SEO Premium will assist you with.

Tips for Keyword Research
This may all seem simple, but we know it’s a lot of work and a lot easier said than done. When you put your skills to the test, you may run against some typical problems or queries. We’ll offer you some pointers on how to make it work!

Make a list of keywords that are most important to you.
What is the optimal number of keywords? We can’t tell you exactly how many keywords you should have, but we can tell you that you should have as many as you can think of. More over 1000 keywords, on the other hand, is certainly excessive! Even if you’re a tiny firm, you’ll most likely wind up with a few hundred keywords.

But you don’t have to make pages for all of them right soon. You may gradually add material. Consider which keywords you want to rank for right now – possibly the longer-tail ones? – and others aren’t as crucial right now. Recognize your priorities and make content production a priority.

One page is all that is required for a focus key and its synonyms.

Each of the terms you wanted to be discovered for had its own landing page in the past. Today, however, search engines are so intelligent that they primarily utilise search intent to provide the best answer to a user’s query. The page that best answers those questions will be ranked first. You don’t have to develop landing pages for every tiny variations of a term, such as synonyms, because search engines comprehend small distinctions between keywords.

That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t utilise synonyms. Synonyms, in fact, may significantly increase the readability of your content, so make advantage of them. This is where our Yoast SEO Premium plugin comes in; it helps you to optimise your content for synonyms and related keywords. Under the SEO analysis tab in your Yoast SEO sidebar, you can put in synonyms for your key. You may use commas to separate them if you wish to fill in more than one. When it comes to adding related keywords to your content, we offer a fantastic tool that you should check out. So let’s talk about it now!

To assist Google comprehend your writing, use related keywords.

Words and concepts that are related to your focal key improve and extend your comprehension of it. They even assist Google in better understanding the topic you’re discussing. You may build a comprehensive picture of your target key in the article you’re writing by employing relevant key words in your content.

So, where do you look for related keywords that can assist you rank for your main keyword? You might be able to come up with a few similar keywords, but we believe that using correct keyword data is the best option. That’s why Yoast SEO has a SEMrush integration that offers relevant keywords and even displays the search volume and trend for each one. Because SEMrush is one of the world’s leading SEO and marketing software businesses, you’ll be able to locate the best associated keywords for your content.

This functionality may be found in the Yoast SEO sidebar and meta box. Simply click the ‘Get associated key’ button, which is located beneath the ‘Focus key’ box. You’ll need to link your SEMrush account or create one and permit Yoast SEO to utilise it the first time you click this. After you’ve connected your account, you’ll be able to immediately locate similar keys by clicking the ‘Get related key’ button: The related key feature is free, but if you upgrade to Premium, you’ll be able to utilise it in the related key feature as well. This feature lets you add synonyms and related keywords to a field in the Yoast SEO sidebar or meta box. You’ll be able to simply optimise your content for numerous keywords and synonyms this way. We have a post on how to utilise the SEMrush related key feature if you want to learn more about this connection.

Search for singular and plural keywords to see what comes up.

Is it better to go for the singular or plural keyword? This, of course, is dependent on the question. Google is becoming better at guessing what you’re looking for as it learns more about the search intent of your query. If you search for book, for example, you will receive a different result than if you search for books. According to Google, in the first example, you’re seeking for a definition, while in the second case, you’re wanting to buy a book. So make sure you know what you’re offering on your website and that it’s relevant to the query and the results Google returns.

Yoast SEO Premium supports word forms, so it identifies all of the varied forms of your focus key instantly (known as keyword stemming). As a result, you won’t have to worry about optimising your article for a certain word form. The process of optimising your article has become much more intuitive. There are several reasons, though, why you should optimise for a particular precise word form of a term. You may place your focus key in quotes in this case: “greatest novels ever.” When evaluating your content, Yoast SEO will now solely consider that specific focus key.

You should only use a key once.

Keep in mind that you should not repeat your precise focus term. If you do, keyword cannibalisation may affect your ranks. Google has a hard time differentiating between similar material. As a result, extremely similar articles or pages may be ranked lower.

Not sure whether you’ve ever used a focus key? The article Why and How to Export Your Focus Keys with Yoast SEO Premium will help you keep track of the focus keys you’ve used previously and on which pages. Also, if you utilise one again, Yoast SEO warns you in the SEO analysis.

Have you discovered that you’ve utilised the same or extremely similar keywords or keyphrases in a number of articles and pages? Then it’s usually a good idea to go over your material and merge, remove, or redirect some of it. A step-by-step method on resolving keyword cannibalisation issues may be found here.

Experiment, assess, and try again.

After you’ve done a comprehensive study of your possibilities of ranking for a certain phrase, the next step is to produce a fantastic article and optimise it for that term. Then press publish, post it on social media, and include it in your email newsletter. Make sure you get some high-quality backlinks. And then wait a bit longer. Examine your standings. Is your article visible? Is it on the first page of Google’s search results? Or is it tucked away on page two or three? Make sure to analyse your content in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Look up the phrases you used to improve your content on Google. Check to see whether your hard work is paying off!

If you can’t get on the top page, try writing another post with a (even) more long-tail term in mind. Make it a little more specialised, a little more niche. And then we’ll see what happens. Re-evaluate your situation. Carry on in this manner until you reach the first page of the SERPs!

Keyword research in a hurry

In a perfect world, you’d conduct keyword research, develop a visually appealing Excel spreadsheet, and create landing pages for each one. Your site’s structure would be faultless, and you’d blog and post every day, increasing your site’s Google ranking. However, we live in a real world.

Your keyword research will, of course, not always be as thorough. And some blogs or articles aren’t created as part of a great plan, but rather because the issue was in the news or because you were inspired to write it. That’s exactly how things operate in these situations. This, however, does not have to be an issue.

If you’re creating content that doesn’t quite suit your plan, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to rank it. You may still use it to rank for phrases that are similar to the ones in your keyword strategy list. To rapidly verify the term you’d like to rank for, use the tools described in step 3 and Google Trends. Take some time to consider how to make your article or blog fit into your overall plan. After all, if you’re going to write useful material, you may as well rate it! More suggestions on how to perform keyword research on the fly may be found in our focus keyword post.

Ready? Begin writing!

Any long-term SEO plan should begin with keyword research. You’ll get a long list of keywords for which you’d like to be discovered as a result. But the most difficult aspect is still to come: authoring all of that material. Every term you want to get found for should be the subject of articles and blog posts.

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