Keyword research for dummies
Posts like this have three kinds of readers. First are the ones who wish to have their own piece of the cloud and decided to make a blog for themselves. Many of those readers don’t fully understand the concept of keywords, they just recently found out they are important somehow. The second type is people who own a website, or have been blogging for a while already and decided to increase their traffic. They have probably tried keyword research but found out that it’s just too darn hard sometimes. The third kind is the SEOs. Some are new to the game and want to learn, others are fishing for new ideas to make their own lives easier because let’s face it – keyword research can be a boring, tedious process.
What is keyword research and why is it important
Keyword is a small snippet of text people are searching for, mostly through Google. We use keyword research to find out what that text is. It’s simple to understand why – we want to have keywords that are searched for on our website, so we could position for them.
Today, with greater use of voice search, semantically correct searches are more prevalent than ever. Still, most searches people type in are shortened. For example, you will never search for “best Chinese orange chicken in Dublin”, you’ll simply type in “best chinese orange chicken dublin”. No one types in that “in” in the search box. Don’t use the shorter version on your website. Everything you write must be semantically correct. Google is good with this kind of stuff, they will recognize that “in” is unimportant for the search query, but will consider your content low quality if you skip using it.
Also, don’t just throw in a bunch of keywords and create an article that way. You have to use them in order to create crawlable content, but you can’t abuse them. This practice is known as keyword stuffing and Google has been able to recognize and penalize this kind of content for years now.
So, be mindful of keywords you are using, don’t get too carried away, but don’t ignore them either. A good rule of thumb is 3 keywords per 500 words, but don’t take that as gospel. Even if you use just 1, chances are you’ll unintentionally use more in a good article, maybe even some you haven’t found.
Be mindful of your keyword targeting
When choosing your keywords, you want to target them at the right audience. Also, you don’t want to compete for a term you have no chance to win. For example, if you are selling Chinese knock off iPhones, there is no way in hell you’ll manage to win for the keyword Apple. While this may be a very obvious example, there are many company brands that are well known, searched for a lot and you simply haven’t heard about them. If a keyword sounds a bit odd, yet it has plenty of searches, there’s a huge chance it’s a brand. I’ve seen this kind of mistake creep up plenty of times because someone didn’t do a simple search for the keyword they were trying to compete for.
There is also another aspect you must consider. I’ve recently done keyword research for a payroll outsourcing company. One word that was constantly creeping up, with good traffic, was payslip. So, if the company offers payslips and payslip related keywords are sought after, why didn’t I include in my marketing strategy? Because of the audience. Majority of people searching for payslips are employees, while my client’s target audience is employers. Sure, we could get some traffic to our website, but there would be very little conversions and our efforts would ultimately be in vain.
Keyword research tools
Every trade needs its tools and there is an abundance of them in the realm of SEO. Finding the right one might be tricky. Also, when it comes to keyword research, you can get stuck sometimes and need an extra tool or two just to get that thinking process going. Most people start off by using the best known, completely free tool provided by Google themselves:
Google Keyword Planner. This is a starting point of every aspiring blogger, SEO marketer, PPC analyst, the website owner. It was created by the big G themselves after all, of course it’s the most famous one. That doesn’t say it’s the best one though.
First, it was primarily aimed at people using Google Ads (former Adwords). The metrics are targeting PPC, not organic traffic. Second, those metrics are pretty approximate. Third, I’ve always had the feeling they
are hiding some things, skipping some keywords, there was always another way to find more.
While they have improved their suggestions recently, they have locked down more precise metrics and settings to just their biggest customers and it’s still not one of the best tools out there. So, let’s skip to the tool I’m mostly using right now:
SEMRush. This is more of a suite than just one tool, it can track your position, it can show your backlinks, track your competition, do an on-page audit… It can do a lot of things, but years ago it actually began its existence as a humble keyword research tool.
Recently they’ve updated the tool, allowing it to import keywords, export them to other tools in their suite, but generally, it’s still a good tool. Add to that the article research tool they have. Also, don’t underestimate the power of the keyword difficulty metric.
I really love it when I want to do something quickly, get some numbers and start working on it. Heck, I love this tool, period. It’s fast, powerful, multipurpose, well-integrated, easy to navigate, really good piece of SEO software. If you’re not an agency though, chances are it’s prohibitively priced and you can live with it. The cheapest plan comes out to 100 bucks every month! That is with a 5 project limit, if you want more, you’ll have to spend even more.
Adding to that, I’m not entirely happy with it when I need an in-depth keyword research, and the price is very steep. Maybe it’s just me, but I really love using a tool that I’ve gotten used to over the years, before getting the SEMRush, which is:
Market Samurai. Plenty of SEOs don’t really like this tool. It can be clunky, buggy and slow. It forces you to install Adobe Air runtime -name me one other Air application that you use. You probably can’t. Also, back in the day, it was a great tool and then somewhere along the road, it turned bad. Today though, it’s still clunky, it’s still slow, but its results are pretty darn good.
When you look on their website, you’ll see that this is a $150 tool. That in itself isn’t that bad, but not exactly cheap. It can get much cheaper though, and that is something their main pages won’t tell you. It can be quite free.
Download their 14-day trial and try everything it’s got. Maybe you’ll find some option that will be worth those 150 bucks to you, maybe not, they’re there anyway while you’ve got that trial. Once those 14 days are up, you’ll get that pesky “your trial is over” message and premium tools will be turned off, but the keyword research itself will stay and keep working. That’s the reason you’ve got it, right?
It can suggest you keywords, it can export CSVs, it can do multiple keywords for a single project. With a little ingenuity and combining CSV files, you can do wonders with this tool. Many times, I’ve fired up the research for many keywords in a project, downloaded a bunch of CSV lists, put them all into a new or reused related keyword inside the app, combined everything and gotten lists as long as 1000 keywords. Now, not all of them will have traffic mind you and some of them will be quite bad, but you will be able to pick between way more than you can use.
The downside is, it’s pulling traffic data directly from Google. I’ve learned not to trust this data and always like to double-check it with another tool. Also, when checking the competition metrics, I prefer to skip Basic competition, as it’s not that accurate (do it for the same keyword twice – chances are it’ll give 2 different results). Majestic competition works great though, so not such a big deal. Sometimes it lacks keyword suggestions though, so I like to use one more tool to help me out:
SEOBook. Again, this is a selection of tools, some free, some paid. Some of those are just a list of links to someone else’s tools. They also have a nifty little toolbar that can give you quite a bit of website info.
That’s not why you’re here though. You’re here for their keyword research tool, which is free and has proven to be very interesting from time to time, at least in my use cases. Since I’ve gotten SEMRush I don’t really need it, but if you only have Keyword Planner and Market Samurai, it can help greatly when in a pinch. The suggestions can
be hit and miss (or missing). I’m also not entirely sure how up to date their traffic metrics are. However, I do always advise not looking at just one set of traffic data, so there’s that use case. That said, the main purpose I had for it was keyword suggestion. I don’t really know how many times it’s helped me in a pinch, with my main tools not giving me anything. Your mind and ideas can take you just part of the way, you really need those suggestions to start from somewhere.
Of course, there are other tools other people like. One of the very popular ones is Answer the public, with numerous users swearing by it. It never clicked with me though, so it’s not on my list. Also, I’ve used the SeoQuake toolbar to check on competitor’s backlinks on occasion. Plenty of people also like Wordtracker scout browser extension. There’s also the tool owned by Neil Patel, Ubersuggest, which has free and paid versions and can give you additional keywords and metrics. All of those have their uses and I won’t say for any of them that they’re bad. You have to find your own way since otherwise, keyword research can really be a boring, tedious, horrible experience. This article, however, can be a good starting point for someone new and, who knows, maybe I’ve helped some fellow SEO with some idea he or she has never tried. You don’t have to splurge a huge sum of cache on SEMRush or similar tools in order to do good keyword research – it is easier, but not necessary. With a little practice and your own set of trusted tools, you can do everything quickly, relatively easily and, for many of you most importantly, free.