SEO’s regularly emphasize the importance of keyword research, and for good reasons.

Keyword research is quite possibly the most important stage in SEO, and I’ll explain why.

On the Internet, people do not just magically stumble across your content, products or website. Instead, there is a much more logical reason as to why and how they found you.

It would be foolish to try and create a campaign before first having a clear understanding of which terms and phrases you are going to target, and secondly who it is you are trying to compete against.

Regardless of who you ask in the SEO industry, you are likely to get the exact same response.

Keyword research is a crucial component for SEO as getting it right could mean the difference between ranking on page 1 or page 2.

Understanding Keywords

Let’s start by recapping the basics.

A ‘keyword’, often referred to as ‘search queries’ or ‘search terms,’ are a “set of specific individual words or phrases that are entered into search engines to help users find what information they are looking for.”

For example, let’s say you’re interested in buying a new pair of women’s shoes. Let’s just assume that for this example you don’t know any shops or places to buy women’s shoes.

Odds are you’ll search for the term “women’s shoes” in Google, right? (Or Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, or one of the other hundred search engines that exist).

Well, this single word or combination of words that you type into search engines, we commonly refer to as keywords.

If you have happened to stumble across this article, then chances are you are interested in keyword research and the process involved. Well we tried to optimize this article for the keyword “keyword research.”

What is Keyword Research?

As mentioned before, keyword research is possibly the most important step in any SEO campaign. It helps you understand what people are searching for:

  • The volumes for each keyword per month
  • How difficult the keyword is to rank for
  • The clickthrough rate for the keyword—known as CTR

Why is Keyword Research Important?

I’ve briefly mentioned that keyword research is important, but I haven’t quite explained why. Keyword research is important because it makes your website relevant. Relevant to the searcher and most importantly relevant to the search engines. If Google thinks that your website is relevant, it will—all things being equal—present you as one of the search results. It might not present you on page 1 but the more relevant you are the better the chance of being seen.

When Should You Conduct Keyword Research?

Which answer is the correct one below?

  • When you are building a new website
  • When you are refreshing your website
  • During an SEO campaign

All the answers are correct. During an SEO audit we will always do keyword research—even if your traffic is great as we might find new opportunities for you.

How Do I Perform Keyword Research?

There are lots of tools available to perform keyword research. Our favorites are

  • Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer
  • Moz’s Keyword Explorer
  • SEMRush’s
  • io

These tools have some functionality as a free version, but to really get a good understanding of keywords, you might have to buy the subscriptions. Or let an SEO agency do the hard work for you!

There’s also Google Trends which is a handy tool to use and of course Google Keyword Planner but the latter is not for the casual user and requires an active AdWords account to get the full benefit.

Once you get a list of keywords, check out your competitors’ keywords to make sure that you are in the right ball park (hint- look at their Meta title). You can also create a list of keywords that your competitors are targeting and see if these are relevant to you too.

What Keywords Should I Choose?

This is a skill in itself. You might want to try and rank for the high volume keywords as obviously that’s what people are searching for. But a lot of times these keywords are just too competitive and without a huge amount of domain authority it will be impossible to rank for them. So in these cases, it is sometimes better to try and rank for so-called “long tail” keywords. For example, instead of trying to rank for “estate agents in Edinburgh,” rank for “affordable estate agents in Edinburgh” or “cheap estate agents in Edinburgh.” Adding on extra words makes the keyword long-tail. While it might not be searched as much, i.e., the volume of searches is lower, there is less competition for the keyword. Which makes it easier to get to the top and grab those people who are searching in this way.

Final (Key) Words

Keyword research is a skill which with the right tools and patience anyone can do. It also isn’t a one-off activity. A website owner should keep reviewing keywords to ensure that they are relevant and current. Get in touch if you’d like any help or tell us what your experience of keyword research in 2018.

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