How to do keyword research step by step
Phase 1: Keyword ideation
Normally, keyword lists are usually generated with which we can then work on obtaining the search volume and the search intention, to be considered in the subsequent web optimization.
However, we have different methods to generate ideas and try to make this mapping of possible words as complete as possible, which we will later use:
- Browse the web
The first way to start the list is simply to browse the web and add the terms that we observe, based on common sense and the topic that the web deals with.
With this, we can prepare a basic list with the main terms that describe the project and the most relevant variations
- Surely if you could only do one thing to think about keywords, it would be this.
By making a table of attributes of the product or service, we can delve and deepen its characteristics, and it gives us infinite inspiration to check word patterns that cannot be missed.
A practical example:
|Jewel type||Material||For whom||Chance||Style||Shape|
|Bracelets||With stones||Children||Valentine’s Day||Boho||Moon|
- Related Google searches
To increase ideation, we have free tools at our disposal, such as Google’s searches, which will indicate that other related terms are searched.
If we repeat this process with several obvious and useful keywords, we can identify new search patterns
- Google Instant Tips
Another way to get ideas is usually Google Instant or the words that appear when you type in the search engine, and they vary depending on how you continue.
- Related searches and Google Trends Topics
With the Google trends tool, we will be able to identify not only when searches take place, compare between several words that mean the same thing, see the interest by region, but we will also be able to extract more ideas from queries and topics, in relation to the word introduced.
For example, if we search for “silver bracelets”, this is the result:
The key to moving forward with successful word ideation is, as you can imagine, adding only the new ideas.
- Google Images Clusters
A free and open tool is Google Images, with the power of having a large number of indexed images, there is a functionality that we can exploit to intuit topics of value for the topic we are investigating
From here we extract additional facets or groupings to the ideation that we have carried so far:
- Material: thread, crystal, woven, silver, leather, pearl, gold, stones
- Quality: costume jewellery
- Recipient: woman, man
- User action: making, crafts, DIY, Pinterest
- Related Product: Chain, Necklaces
The importance of images in certain sectors is vital, in addition, the same process that we do with Google Images can be replicated on Pinterest, a visual social network that usually positions its boards and pins for searches on themes of decoration, aesthetics, etc.
What clues does this give us?
Well, possible internal linking ideas between categories or even offering product combinations, also that of having a Pinterest channel worked and optimized to maximize the presence in the SERPs, given the demand. And without a doubt, this can help us complete our table of attributes, to make it more scalable and user-oriented.
- Pinterest clusters
What is the advantage of using Pinterest? That unlike Google Images, the photos it houses have been classified by real users, in their own language, so we get even closer to their perception of the product and the attributes.
Answer The Public and Forums to get questions
If we want to obtain suggestions similar to the previous approach, we can use more qualitative tools such as Answer The Public or even go into specific thematic forums in the sector that we are dealing with.
They are indeed ways of reaching long-tail or much more specific queries than those we already know, however, they are useful to continue delving into motivations, frustrations and other situations that a user can reach using a product or receiving a service.
- Wikipedia index and categories
As the last clue for ideation, we can use Wikipedia, the free and collaborative encyclopedia with an international presence and great ability to tackle practically any topic.
Being the domain with the highest visibility in Spain, it is a good source of ideas, not only for the keywords they use in their content pieces but also for the way of classifying them and the way of linking them, three basic aspects in any SEO project.
We can use it by searching for the main keyword and inspecting the following aspects:
- Index and formatting of the text: the bold, links and construction of the sentences, gives us a clue of the ideas around which the concept is built.
- Categories: at the level of categorization, these are interesting details to take into account before completing the research and seeing the impacts on the architecture of the web.
Phase 2: Competitor Analysis
Another source of ideas is to study both organic and business competitors, that is, those who occupy positions that interest you, or those who do the same as you, from both we can extract insights of value for our research.
- Crawling of competitors with tools like Screaming Frog. The objective is clear: to analyze the use of keywords in their internal anchors, in their titles, in their h1, and even in the unsuccessful meta keywords since many websites keep them on their sites despite not having SEO impact on Google
- Opportunities: we can mainly analyze at this point what keywords they position and that our website does not rank. This is easy to undertake using SISTRIX, but it is important to use it when the two websites to be compared are similar in business lines. Steps to follow:
- Add our domain
- Go to Opportunities
- Go to Unused Keywords
- Add the domains of our competitors
- Review the list
Phase 3: Obtain search volumes and keyword clusters
To identify the search volume range of the keywords, we can use different tools; for this tutorial, we will use SISTRIX Keyword Discovery.
First, we have to reach this phase with a series of search patterns, which are the ones we have identified in the previous ideation phases. We can use the main patterns or do an analysis for each pattern, this is optional and depending on the size of the site.
For simplicity we are going to use a search pattern identified before which is «rings + shape», adding it to the Keyword Discovery functionality.
- Groups keywords: where we can see groups of words found well by search volume or the number representing relative to the group.
- Filters: with this option, we can eliminate keywords that are not relevant or for example, those that mention the name of competitors.
- Keyword data: It is a complete table that offers the volume, the level of competition and the type of SERP identified by each word.
- Option to add or remove more keywords on the fly: the pencil allows you to edit the added keywords, to expand or reduce them, as you wish. This causes everything to be recalculated again.
- Total data of keywords and volumes: here we can already see at first glance the total number of words found and the sum of their volume.
From Keyword Groups, we can choose the Search Volume tab, to have the grouping of words by that criterion. In this example, it is already observed that the criterion that moves the most volume is the “infinity” form.
If, on the other hand, we want to focus on how big or small the word lists are in each group, we look at the Keyword Count, which for the example exists three forms that dominate over the rest: infinity, moon and heart.
Be that as it may, the next step forces us to take the most appropriate words to a list, selecting them individually or adding them all in bulk.
Phase 4: Obtain the types of SERPs and competitors
At this point, we already have our word list saved, and we can get a pretty clear view of who is ranking for that word group.
Along the same lines, we can delve into what type of SERPs correspond to those keywords, in terms of formats and snippets.
Undoubtedly, thanks to this functionality, we can understand and internalize that our jewellery project will have more travel if we optimize our images, we take care of the presence of our store in Google Maps. We think about whether it makes sense to work on video content.
Phase 5: Criteria for choosing keywords
Despite the inaccuracy of search volume and the seasonality that searches may experience during the year, the fact that Google will end up eliminating the possibility of seeing exact search volumes did not stop the SEO industry from continuing to focus on the search volume to select the target keywords of your projects.
Even beyond the fact that search volume is very inaccurate, optimizing content for search volume alone is a very limited approach to SEO.
Now it is much more valuable and relevant to have content that solves the user’s search intention and can do so in the content format that appears in the SERP that Google shows. If we don’t look both ways, the volume-based strategy, without weighing on the user and not looking at SERPs, will be highly ineffective
So user intention is now one of the most important factors; it is more important to address the problem that a user is trying to solve than simply using the keyword that the user is looking for. Hence, we must put a lot of emphasis on the work before research to get to know the user, the competitors and the SERPs.
For example, if we were researching the keyword “jewellery” to verify what a user intends on that keyword, it is a good idea to simply enter this keyword into Google and see what kinds of results appear.
We can continue to use volume as an indicator, but we cannot stop observing what happens in SERPs and what a word like “jewellery”, with the intention of Visit in Person, can mean.
In the image, it is seen as an effort in local positioning, and it would be more effective than trying to attack a keyword of high volume, competition and difficulty.
Therefore, as indicators or possible criteria for choosing keywords, we can mix these:
- Volume: it is still a valid and important criterion, as long as we take into account the context we have already discussed and the orientation to meet objectives, not volume by volume.
- Relevance: without a doubt, a word that does not have to do with the business that we want to optimize, can bring us traffic but it will never convert, so we must keep this criterion in mind when choosing
- Competition: We should not have high claims if we have just started, so the maximum here is “mess with those of your size” until you can grow and surpass others bigger than you.
- Try: it is a “must” that we should not overlook. We must forget to classify keywords without looking at the user or the SERPs: from there, we can extract the true expectation.
Why do keyword research like this?
Starting from scratch: what is a keyword research
Keyword research is the process of finding and analyzing the actual search terms that people enter in search engines such as Google. However, it could be extended to any other search engine (youtube, bing, Yandex, Baidu).
The information that can be obtained about these search terms can help to build the structure of a site or define its content strategy, in other words, it is about knowing the language of your potential visitors and using this knowledge to create a plan of SEO action.
The main objective, therefore, is to have a deep understanding of the interests that arise to users, to align them with the content that we offer and that we want to be available on Google.
The objectives of the keyword research will be:
- Align what I offer, with the way the target users look for it
- Identify and detect interesting keywords
- Choose the words that will be used to optimize the different URLs
- Segment the SEO plan by making different types of content
We should try to update regularly since Google recently revealed an important fact: 15% of daily searches are new; that is, they have never been performed.
“There are trillions of searches on Google every year. Fifteen per cent of searches we see every day are new — which means there’s always more work for us to do to present people with the best answers to their queries from a wide variety of legitimate sources.”
As you can see, it is not necessary to emphasize much more on the importance of keyword research: it is worth the effort to carry out adequate and exhaustive research since it will make it possible to create solid, viable and scalable strategies for SEO. In short, there is no point in optimizing for keywords that people don’t use to Google.
Since the keyword research will be carried out for projects of different nature, business model and maturity phase, it must always be considered that SEO is only one more leg of the global project, so that research will also influence architecture, design, content, internal and external linking, as well as in paid campaigns.
Therefore, we must apply methodologies and cross-sectional analysis so as not to forget the ultimate protagonist: the user.
Types of keywords in a keyword research
Before entering the process step by step to do keyword research, it is convenient to review the types of keywords that we can find:
Keywords by content
- Generic keywords are those made by users who make a general query, without associating it with the name of a brand, they are especially important when constituting the opportunity to attract new users who land on our website. However, with the hyperconnection, we suffer and the great penetration of the Google ecosystem in our lives, nowadays generic searches have an implicit geolocation component through which the results end up being shown with some customization based on location, history search or if the search was done while logged in Google.
- Geographic or local keywords are usually searches accompanied by terms related to a location such as provinces or cities.
- Brand keywords are usually those made by those users who already know our project and somehow, by doing them within the search engine, have the intention of navigating the ecosystem of the brand in question.
Keywords by volume
- Short tail, single-word searches, characterized by having a high volume, a high level of competition and on the contrary, a low predisposition to conversion due to being poorly focused on their intention
- Mid tail, searches of one or two words, are more accessible words for any project and with a lower traction level than the previous ones, but in short, they can contribute traffic and conversion.
- Long tail, long search strings and with a much more concise and specific volume, which make them more effective with respect to conversion, by specifying your search intention or your ultimate purpose. The sum of the large list of the long tail that exists in any sector can exceed the volume of short-tail words, more limited in number.
In line with this type of words, we can reflect on the degree of specificity they have based on their intention, and on the implicit geolocation brought about by the context of the user they are looking for (browsing history, IP, geographic location, search with login, …).
Keywords by intention
- Know: they are searches of users who are exploring or investigating but are not yet in purchase mode, they want useful information.
- C: These searches can happen before or after the purchase, they are moments of “how to do it”, in which the users need help or try to do something. Correct content is the key in this type.
- Website: search queries in which the user wishes to access a destination website that he knows in advance. It is likely that they are brands with recognition and in which site links or site links may appear, as a complement to the usual organic position
- Visit in person: Users who are looking for a local business or are considering going to a local store, perhaps buying a product. Achieving visibility here means being considered an option at that key moment.
Keywords by customer journey
- Awareness: searches that are at the beginning of the user’s problem, it is the beginning of their way to solve it, but it is not a direct consultation on the definitive solution
- Consideration: At this stage, the user’s queries try to know how to solve their problem, trying to gather more information about possible solutions; even so, the intention remains informative.
- Decision: At this point, searches are already leading to the transaction and can be differentiated by being more action-oriented such as requesting a demo, watching a webinar, or chatting with a salesperson. Although they are indicators that may vary from one business to another, it is interesting to delve into the research in order to qualify traffic and target it to sales.
- Purchase: influenced by the previous phase, there will be few “finalists” among which the purchase or transaction will be carried out, which ends or solves the initial problem of the user.
How do the latest algorithm changes affect our research?
The algorithm updates made by Google that have most influenced the way in which keyword research is carried out are varied.
On the one hand, in general terms, in 2018, Google launched more than 3,000 changes to its search algorithms. However, many of these changes are minor, and the average web user would not even notice that they have occurred.
The reality is that today, Google is governed by context and intention. Therefore research must be done according to the needs of users, this together with the changes of recent years, mainly Hummingbird, which Google uses to understand semantic relationships.
Analysis prior to keyword research
Keyword research is not a predefined or generic analysis for all cases, that is, there is not a single way to carry it out, which is why each professional usually does it in their own way and above all determined by their knowledge, experience and trajectory.
In this part of the tutorial, we want to describe how research can be done and what considerations can be useful for:
- Develop a first basic list of terms based on products and target users
- Get to devise more words that can be of value
- The study which players are positioned in those terms
- Be clear about what type of SERPs we are facing before choosing both the keyword and the content format that we will use to optimize a website
In summary, keyword research will have these key points
Know the website, the sector and the objectives pursued
Before helping a business to grow through SEO, we must understand what the project consists of, who its clients are, and above all, what its objectives are.
Without a doubt, this point is truly crucial because keyword research takes time that would be in vain if we did not think about the focus of the research first.
To achieve objectives, we must have a plan, and that does not happen by choosing arbitrary keywords or those not related to the business.
Let’s imagine that we are a brand of sneakers, there is an easy way to understand the business, and that can be the starting point for any project, it is simply asking questions related to the business:
- What are the priority products or the ones that leave the business the most margin
- What are the fixed products that will always be available
- What are the dates in which special campaigns are carried out: Valentine’s Day, Black Friday, etc.
- What are the stock replacement margins, when a product runs out, how long does it take to be available again?
- What are the main attributes of the product
- Where are the competitors located locally, nationally or internationally?
- What are the competitive advantages of the product compared to the competition
- If the project already exists, you can access:
- Google Analytics: to see traffic trends and which pages work better or worse
- Google Search Console – to view search queries that already deliver impressions or clicks.
- Google Adwords: to see reports of keywords that have performed better than CTR and CPV
On the other hand, it may also be interesting to know certain data more related to the way in which end users will search for us, questions such as:
- What types of sneakers or footwear does the web have available and which ones are people looking for?
- Who searches for these terms?
- When are those searches performed?
- Are there seasonal trends throughout the year?
- How are people looking for ice cream?
- What words do they use?
- What questions do they ask?
- Are more searches carried out from mobile devices or from a computer?
- Why do people look for footwear?
- Are you looking for footwear for aesthetic, health, basic necessity…?
- Do you do price-sensitive searches or other product qualities?
- Where are the potential clients located locally, nationally or internationally?
And finally, we can also map the point where the sector is at the moment prior to research, to understand who the leaders of the sector are or what content is being promoted and monopolizes visibility:
- How many websites do exactly the same as us?
- Which websites go-to price and which websites go-to quality?
- How important are the images or the video in the SERPs?
- Is there potential to appear on third party websites with good visibility and reputation?
To carry out all this preliminary data collection can be centralized using a form from Google Forms or Survey Monkey, easy to send and very useful to speed up the achievement of information and store it conveniently.
Put ourselves in the shoes of the user we want to attract
This point is fundamental and the necessary time is not always invested in understanding the needs, doubts, questions, concerns and problems that a user may have and that he wants to satisfy.
If we wanted to be strictly correct with the process, we need to use the discipline of UX, to understand how we are going to satisfy the user who searches Google and can end up coming to our website. Therefore, the factors involved in UX are basically:
- The user: who is it?
- Social factors: depending on who you are and where you are, there will be some or other social factors that influence you.
- Cultural Factors: depending on who you are and where you are, there will be some or other cultural factors that influence you.
- Contexts of use: for what, how, where and under what circumstances will you use the product or service
- The product or service: is it really good and does it meet expectations? Does it solve the problems it promises?
Understanding that user satisfaction goes through these points, we can use some of the usual UX tools or artefacts such as:
- Definition of Archetypes or People: create user models to group the types of audience we will have and be able to empathize with them more directly.
- Customer Journey: all the phases a user goes through can be modelled, from identifying their problem or need to solve it (purchasing a product or contracting a service).
- Qualitative surveys could be useful for very specific projects in which it is difficult to identify first the groups of keywords with which to start Niche projects
- Very technical projects
- B2B projects
Another discipline that can help us understand the end-user is Paid Media, that is, any Adwords campaign that has been active will be invaluable information about the keywords that have been searched and will constitute the most realistic volume that we will find throughout the process.
Everything we can incorporate from these disciplines before our SEO keyword research will be very useful, but it is not mandatory, that is, not everyone will be able to incorporate these techniques.
Know or list the thematic territories
Since SEO can be surrounded by other marketing and business departments to nurture the spectrum of product knowledge, it is possible that there are some territories already defined by the company, if not, we can list which areas will be impacted, on all from the user’s point of view.
Example 1: a company that sells services
Let’s say that we are a bus company that operates in Spain; the potential territories could be:
- Ticket purchase: how to buy it, offers, minors and babies, etc.
- Points of interest at the origin: station information, airport connections, etc.
- Points of interest at the destination: station information, airport connections, etc.
- Luggage: characteristics, rules and other recommendations such as what we can travel with by bus (surfboards, bicycles, etc.)
- Animals: rules regarding travelling with animals
- Equipment: air conditioning, wifi and other amenities with which the bus is equipped
- Entertainment: elements that we will have onboard to enjoy the trip, such as movies, series, music connection,
- Itinerary: stations, stops and relevant information.
The reason for the trip:
- Sports events: from here we could extract that sport can be a territory from which to position content so that it is associated with the business
- Concerts: from here we could extract that music can be a territory from which to position content so that it is associated with the business
- Tourism: what to see, where to sleep, what to do, monuments, routes, etc.
Example 2: a company that sells products
Let’s say that we are a jewellery store that we operate in Spain, and the potential territories could be:
- Product Attributes: the characteristics of the product and the existing available catalogue, which will compete with other stores that offer something similar and the perception of the price and quality that the user has.
- Related sectors
- Fashion and style: being a fashion accessory it must be integrated into themes related to fashion and trends. The new styles emerge in a correlated way with influential users or with Anglo-Saxon markets that light the wick.
- Events: Indirect users can be attracted indirectly through events such as the Oscars, the Cibeles catwalk show or themed events such as Vogue Fashion Night.
- Dates indicated: Another great current are dates such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas or Mother’s Day.
- Influencers: This aspect can be of great influence in such visual sectors in which the reference person who carries it or uses it sells a product.
With this small initial x-ray, we can now face the research with greater guarantees of understanding the motivations that a bus user will have and will be able to turn to a search engine to plan their trip.
Once we have chosen the keywords, we could work on the architecture of the web or the SEO strategy to optimize our pages.
So, this was our step by step guide to do keyword research. We hope it will be helpful to you. If you liked it, please leave your feedback in the comment box below.