Keyword Research: Everything You Need to Know

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The first step to a successful SEO or content marketing strategy is keyword research. It’s essential to the successful execution of any marketing strategy, really. Before you ever put pen to paper – or in our case, fingers to keyboard – you need to think about the search terms for which you want your website to rank.

This is easier said than done. Proper keyword research means getting into the heads of your website visitors. Three questions to consider in your keyword research:

  1. What does my customer need?
  2. How can I help them solve a problem?
  3. What words do they use when searching the web for my product or service?

Once you have the answers to these three basic questions, you can begin to construct a successful content marketing and search engine optimization strategy.

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What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the pre-work done to compile a list of keywords for a specific website. These are the keyword you want your website to rank for in search engines, such as Google. Your keyword strategy will be designed around this keyword research.

Keyword research includes four main aspects:

  • Keywords or keyphrases
  • Focus keywords
  • Search intent
  • Keyword strategy

Keep in mind, while we say keyword, most of the time we’re really talking about keyphrases. Keyphrases are long-tail keywords that use multiple words or even complete sentences. For example, ranking for the keyword “insurance” can be nearly impossible. A quick Google search for “insurance” delivers 1.8 billion results. A keyphrase, on the other hand, such as “farm insurance in Cleveland Ohio” delivers only 4 million results and is therefore much easier to rank.

Since these long-tail keywords tend to be more focused and niche, they are cheaper and ultimately, more attainable.

Search intent is related to understand what a user really wants when they initiate a Google search. This goes beyond keyword research and is really about creating and underlining keyword goal. This is where knowing what the searchers want to know, do or buy is crucial.

But let me be clear: Keyword Research takes work.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas Edison

The Importance of Keyword Research

Keyword research ultimately comes down to understanding which search terms your audience uses. At the Lorem Ipsum Company, we often come across clients who use a different phrase or vocabulary when describing their products or services than their customers do. Because of that mismatch, those potential customers never find those websites.

For example, one software customer created a new platform targeted toward general contractors. The software was designed to help contractors manage multiple construction sites. Because the original keyword research wasn’t conducted properly – or even at all – the bulk of their SEO efforts were focused on the keyphrase “job site management solution” when their potential customers were, in fact, search for “construction site management solution.”

Since very few people search for “job site” versus “construction site,” the original strategy was a bust. Even though it may be a lot easier, that’s why it doesn’t make sense to optimize your website for words people don’t use.  Good keyword researchers will understand not only your business but your customers, too. Your business exists because your customers have a pain point. Understanding that pain point and convincing those customers to use your product or service is the driving principle behind keyword research and developing quality content.

How to do Keyword Research Right

There are four main steps to conducting keyword research correctly:

#1 Know Your Mission

Before you can kick off keyword research, you have to have a clear mission statement – both for the business and the keyword strategy. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are we?
  • What do we do?
  • What is the purpose of our website?
  • What differentiates us?
  • Who do we want to talk to?
  • What promises can we make?

Most businesses should be able to answer these questions easily. You have to know what makes you different and why that’s important to your customers. Beyond that, you need to know and understand what your ideal customer looks like.

Write out your mission statement. Memorize it. Makes sure your employees memorize it. Once these questions are answered with detail and authenticity, you’re ready for the next step.

#2 Create a Keyword List

With your mission statement in mind, sit down a write out a list of keyword and phrases you think for which your business website should rank. Get into the heads of your customers. Who are they? What are they looking for? It’s important to note that these questions can have multiple answers. Write them all down.

If you understand your mission, you will have a clear understanding of your niche and your audience.

This keyword list represents all the terms for which you want your website to rank in search engines.

#3 Understand Keyword Intent

When a user performs a search query on Google, that user has a clear intent. Whether the search is for something simple, such as “shoes,” or something more complex, such as “white Nike running shoes size 8.”

Google’s algorithm is complex and intelligent.

These two searches have different intents. The first is vague and therefore means the searcher probably has no intention to buy. The later, however, is extremely specific and shows a clear intent to purchase. Which keyword would you rather your website rank for? See what we’re getting at here.

Modern SEO strategies should focus on answering the questions your customers have. The vast majority of searches these days are question-based. So it only makes sense to optimize your website to answer these questions. There are the four main types of search intent:

  • Information
  • Navigation
  • Commercial
  • Transactional

Information and navigation are clear-cut. These people are looking for information on a certain subject, product or service or want to access a specific website. Commercial and transactional search intents are more nuanced. These are the folks doing research on a specific product or service or are actually looking to buy a specific product or service.

When you’re conducting your keyword research, you should break your keywords out into these four categories. This will help you create the right content around your keywords.

#4 Optimize your Webpage

The final step in keyword research is optimizing your website or landing pages. A landing page is a specific page within your website you want the customer to see for a specific keyword. In the olden days of SEO, you wanted a separate landing page for each major keyword. Today, however, search engines are much more adept at understanding intent and one landing page can support multiple keywords.

Note: Search engines are also much more advanced when it comes to understanding keyword variations, so you should optimize pages for keyword variations rather than creating entirely new pages. Tools, such as Yoast, are great at helping bloggers optimize blog posts for multiple keywords.

Pages that are better at answering the customer’s question will rank higher. Period. The more structured your webpages are, the better they will perform. Check out our post on structured data.

Keyword Research and Internal Linking

Once you have your list of keywords broken into categories by intent, you’re almost done. The next step in your keyword research is to create an internal linking strategy.

We’ll get more into internal linking, also called deep linking, in another post. But for now, here’s what you need to know:

Every website consists of internal and external links. Internal links are links that point to other pages on your site, while external links point to other websites. Google and other search engines crawl website by following links, both internal and external. A bot visits a page and follows the links. This is how Google determines relationships between pages. If you noticed, at the beginning of this article, we linked to pages on our site about content marketing and search engine optimization. That was our way of telling Google that the content on this page is related to the content on those pages.

Internal linking is a crucial component of a successful SEO strategy and should be considered during the keyword research phase. For example, when selecting keywords, it’s important to know in advance which pages to which you want those keywords to link.

How Many Keywords Do You Need?

It’s really impossible to quantify the number of keywords. Let’s just say, you need a lot. But try to keep it under 1,000. Having more than 1,000 keywords can make your SEO extremely difficult to manage.

Even a relatively small business will have hundreds of keywords and phrases. However, you do not need to create pages of each of these keywords right away. Your SEO and Keyword strategy should be a long-term one.  That’s the great thing about content management systems (CMS), you can slowly add content over a long time and keep it organized.

The Next Steps: Eye on the Competition

Now that you have conducted your keyword research and have a thorough keyword strategy for your search engine optimization, you’re ready to get to work. For starters, Google your keywords. Who and what comes up? If your area has a lot of competition, ranking will be difficult.

Ask yourself this: How does my website compare to sites that come up in search engine results. Scour those pages to see what they’re doing differently. Keep in mind the site authority is huge when it comes to ranking on Google, so it can take time to catch up to the competition.

If all of this sounds a little daunting, it’s because it is. But don’t worry, the Lorem Ipsum Company can help. Let us handle the keyword research and strategy for you. Get our FREE SEO Scorecard Today.

    Jeramy Gordon is the founder and Chief Content Officer at the Lorem Ipsum Company. He has been creating successful content strategies for almost two decades and believes in the power of high-quality content. He lives in Orange County, California, with his wife and two children.

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