Keyword research is one of the most important steps in crafting a successful SEO strategy. The right keywords will help your website rank higher in search results.
In addition to developing a content marketing strategy and creating the content, SEO keyword selection is one of the most necessary components of any practical digital marketing plan. Keywords are the building blocks of any SEO strategy. If you choose the right keywords, your rankings will grow month-over-month without much additional effort on your part. If you don’t pick appropriate keywords, ranking–and generating traffic–will become nearly impossible.
You need to think beyond what appears on search engine results pages (SERPs) for terms you commonly search for. This blog post gives you real-world strategies on how to choose the best keywords for SEO.
First of All, What Is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is the process of ideating, researching, and deciding on relevant phrases to use for content creation and website optimization. Once you’ve identified your target audience, settled on an SEO-friendly website structure, and started an editorial calendar, you can dive into keyword research. Not sure if your website is structured correctly to rank in Google? Do some research before you start chugging away with keyword research and content.
The keywords on each of your pages are one of the biggest factors web crawlers use to determine the relevance, accuracy, and completeness of the topic you’ve written about. Keyword research begins with a reliable SEO keyword research tool, like Ahrefs (paid), SEMrush (paid), or UberSuggest (free with paid options available).
Once you’ve demoed a few tools and picked one you like, you can start researching terms for your editorial calendar.
Why Is Keyword Research Important for SEO?
Keyword research is important for SEO because it determines your website’s future traffic potential and also the types of people most likely to see your website. Well-planned SEO keyword research efforts can drive a large amount of traffic and generate qualified leads.
Keyword research is arguably the most important step in making sure your website ranks well in search engines. Otherwise, you’ll spend hours producing content but it won’t gain traction on Google or other search engines.
Keyword research is a more complex process than meets the eye. You need to consider the context of both your market niche as a business and the type of content you or your team will be writing. Let’s look at how to find keywords that are relevant to your business.
How to Find the Perfect Keywords for SEO
When you’re performing SEO keyword selection, you have to be strategic. Don’t just pick any keyword that sounds useful and call it a day. You want to pick keywords that are relevant to your website, related to your niche, and have enough competition to be noticeable, but not too much competition not to be worth your time.
Related article: How to find low-competition SEO keywords
Here’s how to do perfect SEO keyword selection:
- Make a list of the most common problems in your industry. What are the issues customers turn to you for time and again? Chances are they’re looking for answers on Google, too. Plug these problems’ phrases into your keyword tool and see what it returns. You can generate serious traffic by giving readers how-to content for their most pressing questions or issues.
- Look at the questions your audience asks on social media, blogs, and forums. Are any of their questions exact keyword matches, or close? You just found a perfect keyword. People turn to the internet to get their questions answered by authoritative sites, and if you write a blog post perfectly answering that question, you can generate traffic with that type of FAQ post.
- Search for long-tail keywords that get 1,000 monthly searches or fewer. This is usually the sweet spot–not too large to pose ranking difficulties, but not too small that it takes years to generate significant traffic.
- Conduct an SEO competitor analysis. Not sure if your competitor is doing SEO? Our 10-minute SEO test can answer that for you. Once you know which competitors invest in SEO, you can run a competitor keyword analysis to see which of their keywords are most successful. See a few that you could write stronger content for–or better yet–they aren’t targeting at all? Add them to your editorial calendar and watch as you outrank them one blog post at a time.
- Look for variations of keywords or content you’ve already used. Say you’ve written two blog posts about electrical wiring in residential properties. Plug the keywords you’ve already used into your keyword research tool and look for related topics. Can you write more content within the same theme, and link them all together? That approach can create an SEO content goldmine that both search engine algorithms and humans love.
Just one of these strategies is enough to find dozens of great keyword opportunities, but using all of them can uncover enough keywords for hundreds of blog posts. Use any combination of these keyword research strategies whenever you need to fill out your editorial calendar.
Keyword Phrase Length
Choosing the correct length for your keywords is also a crucial SEO strategy. Google has said that while long-tail keywords are valuable, they aren’t always the right ones. It’s most important to choose topically relevant keywords, not the longest keyword phrases.
Try to select long-tail keywords with six or seven words, with keywords longer than used as secondary or tertiary phrases. Plus, the longer the keyword is, usually the less search volume it has. People who commit the effort to type in lengthy queries usually have buyer intent. However, you want to focus on a mix of long-tail and shorter “head” keywords in order to generate volume and a mix of prospects at different stages of the buying cycle.
The Importance of Synonyms
Knowing how to choose the best keywords for SEO includes selecting synonyms or related keywords. Choosing synonyms helps your SEO efforts because it positions your website as more relevant to the searcher.
If human browsers see your website is topically complete, you’ll be considered more authoritative. This improves your position in the eyes of Google, too, which works hard as a company to present only the most accurate and up-to-date information to searchers about every possible query.
Publish Natural, Concise, Informative Content
The optimization efforts don’t end with proper SEO keyword selection. Your content needs to remain on-topic to the keywords you’ve chosen to attract and retain targeted readers for as long as possible.
Your content needs to be concise, meaning no “padding” that doesn’t add to the solution or answer you’re providing in your blog post. If you find that you trail off frequently when writing content, search for the keyword you’re targeting and look at the top three Google results. Those pages are bound to have several paragraphs or headers you can imitate for your own blog post.
Make it a point to avoid keyword stuffing, too. Keyword stuffing is using the same keyphrase as more than 2% of a single web page’s word count. To get a feel for how much this would be, writing your keyword 15 times in a 1,500-word blog post is 1%.
Back in the day, people used to be able to rank websites by using a keyword frequently. Search engine companies caught on quickly and started downranking websites for using the same phrase too often. It’s essential to write content that’s thorough without the overt use of your target term.
The Bottom Line
SEO keyword research feels overwhelming at first, but becomes a simple task of identifying phenomenal opportunities once you have some practice. As you pick keywords and write excellent content for it, you’ll become savvier at understanding which terms to target in the future.
Here’s a recap of SEO keyword selection essentials:
- Keyword research is the process of finding search terms that are relevant to your niche and audience. You can research phrases with both paid and free SEO keyword research tools.
- Keyword research is essential because it determines how much traffic you’ll get and what kinds of people see your content. Go slowly when researching, as quality and search intent are far more important than focusing on a bunch of semi-relevant keywords.
- Finding the perfect SEO keywords is possible with the right strategies. Look on forums, blogs, and social media for the problems and questions people have in your target audience. Enter these in your keyword research tool and use the results to guide your content creation.
- Account for keyword length when looking for keywords. Long-tail keywords are essential but don’t choose them all the time. Mix in head keywords to drive more traffic over the long term.
- Keyword synonyms are essential to have in a modern SEO strategy. Include related terms both for existing content and as a launchpad for future content.
- Keep your content concise, on-topic, and rich. Don’t make your primary keyword target more than 1-2% of your blog post’s total word count, otherwise, it’ll be deemed keyword stuffing.
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