If you are reading this article then you are on the right track of building something that will last, gain the visibility you were hoping for and probably bring in organic leads. Keyword research is the single most important step that you could perform today and reap the benefits tomorrow.
Let’s start from the top though. What is keyword research, why is it important and how can you perform keyword research that will make a difference? These are some of the things that we will go through in this article.
What is keyword research?
Wikipedia in all its infinite knowledge defies keyword research as “the practice search engine optimization (SEO) professionals use to find and research alternative search terms that people enter into search engines while looking for a similar subject.”.
Even though this is a very nice explanation you would give to someone you meet in the line for coffee the reality is that it doesn’t cover half the truth of what keyword research is.
!reminder to edit Wikipedia page
Keyword research is indeed the practice of researching alternative search terms that people often
enter use in any way or form (spoken or written) in search engines while looking for a subject, product, or service. Even though called “keyword research” the practice contains behavioral research for users as well as competitor analysis in order to be considered in any way successful.
Another common mistake usually left out of the keyword research articles that you will encounter online is the oversimplification of the process by just looking for similar keywords rather than keywords that are similar and closely associated with the user intent.
Keyword similarity can exist without passing the user behavioral intent. This defeats the purpose of using keyword research in its entirety since keyword research is a “tool” we use in order to optimize content not just for the purpose of bringing in traffic but for bringing in the right traffic.
The idea of picking the top performing keyword for a subject or the ones that have the lowest competition is not going to be discussed in this article or by this author in any other.
Why is keyword research important?
Content marketing should be a big part of your overall marketing strategy. Quite frankly, content marketing is one of the strategies with the lowest CPM (cost per thousand impressions), and if done right the ROI can be enormous.
Keyword research is a vital part of content marketing. Knowing how your users search, how they ask questions, and what those questions are is important for Fortune 500 companies as it is for a local business.
Keep in mind that keyword research is important for finding keywords that you could use as well as keywords that you should probably steer clear. No matter what niche you are competitors might own some of the keywords and depend on your individual situation you will have to make the decision on which keywords you can go for and which ones you should maybe revisit in the future.
How to perform keyword research
There are several tools that can help you with keyword research but the one thing that will really make a difference in your intimate knowledge of your market and time. I can’t stretch enough the time commitment you have to put into this if you want to succeed.
If you feel like this is a waste of time or that you could rely entirely on tools then my personal opinion is that you are mistaken. Tools are just a part of the process and this is the same with most aspects of SEO.
No matter which tool you are going to end up using, my process of keyword research is practically the same.
Start by creating your Personas. It’s imperative that you get to know your users. Creating personas will help you not only get a notion of them but get an in-depth look at what they do and who they are. What their needs are, what their level of expertise is, what they do in their free time, even go as deep as demographics.
Learn how to create your own personas. Personas are not just UX or SEO tools. They can be a powerful business decision tool that can affect the way your business moves forward. Invest time in building a few of them and try to cover all the data you have available to you.
Here’s an example of how I use Personas for keyword research.
Content Marketing Funnel / User Intent
Writing content without targeting user intent is plain time-wasting and since time is the most expensive commodity I would seriously advise against it. Once you have your personas put them against a content marketing funnel.
If you are not sure what a marketing funnel is then I would highly advise on doing some personal research on content marketing funnels.
For each stage, new keyword research should be performed.
The content marketing funnel is separated into three stages. TOFU or Top of the Funnel, MOFU, Middle of the Funnel and BOFU, Bottom of the Funnel. Basically the content marketing funnel stages can be labeled as the Discovery stage, the Consideration, and the Purchase.
In order for you to perform proper keyword research, you need to be aware of how people in each stage search. Have you created personas that belong in all of the stages? If not go back and work on your personas.
Keyword research depending on the medium
As discussed previously not all people search using the same medium and not all stages of a content marketing funnel use the same form of contact. For example, Max (a persona of mine) is a hobbyist D&D Dungeon Master that wants to learn more about using miniatures in his games.
He never really searched for it and it’s his second-ever campaign so he is not really in an online community. Max is a visual person so instead of searching for D&D miniatures in Google search, he is searching for “playing D&D with miniatures” on YouTube.
Is your content research the same for Max as is for someone that is an experienced D&D player? Is it the same for someone that never actually played D&D and is interested to find what the game looks like?
People of different funnel stages search differently. Some queries at the top of the funnel are information-based while some at the bottom of the funnel are commercially based. People searching for videos are not searching using the same terms as people searching on Amazon and in order for you to find out how they search is by focusing the level of knowledge (usually top of the funnel are not that experienced on what you do), by contactin interviews, or by using 3rd party tools that can support your keyword research work.
Keyword research tools that can help kickstart your research
SEMrush is probably one of the most well-known SEO tools. More than that SEMrush offers an all in one digital marketing toolkit. The benefit is that you can find trending topics, perform your keyword research, write articles, and optimize your on-page directly through the tool.
The price for the number of sub-tools they provide is probably the greatest value for money you can get out there. You can also start with a 7-day Pro trial.
Mangools is a fairly new discovery for me. I’ve seen them around but never thought of testing them out until about a year ago. They instantly made a great impression. The tool is amazingly friendly and probably the most affordable option. If you optimize your own site, or if you have a few clients then this is the right tool for you.
Not only they offer great keyword suggestions but they also provide site analysis, backlink research tools, and SERP analysis and keyword tracking.
Start using Mangool with a 10-day free trial.
Ahrefs, similar to SEMrush offers a variety of tools that can help you with your keyword research and overall SEO strategy. From a user perspective, I believe that Ahrefs keyword explorer is really user friendly and intuitive. The tool also offers a great view of the backlink profile of your competitors which can greatly help with which keywords you should focus and which keywords you should avoid.
Start using Ahrefs with a 7-day trial for $7.
All of the above tools have some sort of information-based articles that will help you with the use of their own tool for keyword research. Personally I believe that if you’ve seen one you probably have seen them all and you can use whichever one fits your needs better.
Keep in mind that all the tools in existence have holes that you can only fill by spending time and doing your own research. Speak with your current users, or find friends and family that are willing to answer a few questions. Just an hour with an actual user can shed more light than any tool you’ll ever use.