What is Keyword Research And Why It Matters In SEO
- July 25 , 2023
- 14 min read
Whether looking for the next travel destination, electronic device purchase, or specific health symptoms, you’ll likely type a set of words on the search bar— since 68% of online experiences begin with an online search.
That said, optimising websites for organic search must be a priority for inbound marketers aiming to boost brand awareness, increase site traffic and revenue, and stay ahead of the curve. But it’d be good to note these rely heavily on how good you’re at with keyword research and search engine optimisation (SEO).
However, achieving SEO success doesn’t happen overnight; neither does keyword research. Understanding specific keyword research terms and concepts is imperative before taking up this time-consuming and sometimes challenging task.
And discussing the basics is how we’re going to start this article.
Understanding Keyword Research
Keyword research encompasses activities that help organisations find, identify, analyse, and pick relevant search terms. An essential component of this task is understanding your target audience better and prioritising their needs.
These search terms are then classified, mainly on user intent, and linked according to a potential buyer’s position in the purchasing process. As such, effective keyword research is the cornerstone for successful content and search engine optimisation (SEO) strategies, boosting a brand’s search engine results page (SERP) ranking.
What Are Keywords?
As noted earlier, any online search activity starts with a user query, and these words, phrases, and sentences are called keywords. Keywords are also called search phrases, search terms, or key phrases.
After inputting these phrases, search crawlers or bots scan billions of pages, ranking them according to numerous factors, with authority, usability, and relevance at the top. This makes keywords important to SEO practice because they tell search bots which pages to look for.
That said, one of the best practices for keyword optimisation is incorporating search phrases in content, meta tags, heads, uniform resource locator (URL), and snippets to tell bots what the content is about.
Keyword Types Defined
According to estimates, an average person conducts up to four online searches daily, pushing Google, the world’s most popular search engine, to process around nine billion queries during the same period. In such cases, consumers may use different clusters of words to find information or solution to their queries.
There are two primary keyword classifications and a few other types that online marketers must know about, and these include the following:
1. Short-tail keywords
Short-tail keywords, better known as head terms or seed keywords, comprise one or two words. These key phrases refer to broad topics and tend to have higher search volumes and more results than other types because they lack specificity.
For instance, take a look at the screenshot below for ‘keyword research’:
As you can see, 543 million pages appear in the search results, and saying that it’s challenging to rank using such a keyword is an understatement. Because of tense ranking competition, it will take a lot of resources to appear high on the SERP—with little to no conversion potential.
2. Long-tail keywords
Long-tail keywords are typically more targeted and specific than short-tail key phrases, allowing for less competition. Users who key in long-tail keywords seek specific information, making it easier for SEO practitioners and content marketers to analyse intent. Generally, these search terms have more than three words.
Picking up from the example above, we added a few words to the phrase and put ourselves in the shoes of a marketer’s looking for keyword research tools. Hence, we ended up with ‘the best keyword research tools for boosting SEO’ and saw results exponentially dropping to 6.81 million.
SEO practitioners typically favour ranking for long-tail keywords because they give clues to a user’s intent. As with the examples above, a ‘keyword research’ query generates a lot of room for speculation about the searcher’s intent. Conversely, these doubts often disappear as the user adds more specific words to the search phrase.
Similarly, there are other specific keyword types you need to know about to make your keyword research efforts more effective.
3. Niche keywords
Like long-tail keywords, niche keywords are highly specific and generally appeal to a certain market segment. These search phrases are likely to have lower competition, with searchers showing more interest in converting, purchasing, or knowing more about your products and services.
In addition to using long-tail keywords, businesses can conduct niche keyword research to accommodate audiences with specific needs. For example, a software vendor can use the following niche-specific key phrases:
Using niche keywords may not dramatically boost web traffic, but they help attract high-quality leads that could lead to higher conversions and revenue potential.
4. Low-competition keywords
Low-competition keywords refer to search terms that only require a little effort for SEO practitioners to rank. Unlike high-competitor keywords, these don’t require sites with a high site domain rating or stellar link-building strategies to attract traffic.
Aptly called low-hanging fruits, these keywords possess high search volume searches but enjoy the low competition from other sites. One of the ways to find low-competition keywords is to use advanced keyword research tools that set certain criteria for keyword difficulty.
5. Branded and non-branded keywords
Branded keywords are search phrases that associate with a brand, product, or service. For instance, users wishing to jazz up their phones must key in their device’s brand name and model to find compatible accessories. As such, incorporating brand keywords helps you target this specific user segment.
Conversely, non-branded keywords can be used to expand audience reach. Besides not bearing the brand, service, or product name, keywords with misspelled or non-distinct trade names are considered non-branded.
6. Keyword clusters
Keyword clusters refer to a group of query phrases that relate to each other. Clustering can be done by identifying a core topic and several other subtopics that support their site. Exploring the keywords within a cluster can help businesses discover new topics and user intents to address.
From a marketing point of view, keyword clustering helps group potential buyers who may share the same search intent.
Essential elements of keyword research
Marketers must consider a few crucial factors when conducting keyword research. These essential concepts impact keyword rankings and thus can be used to boost their keyword research, analysis, and application.
1. Keyword search volume
Keyword search volume is measured according to the number of times a key phrase has been searched for a certain period, typically every month. This keyword search metric is important as it gives marketers an idea of how competitive and valuable a particular keyword may be in their business.
Recent data suggests that almost 95% of search queries in the US have a low search volume of 10 or fewer per month, while about 15% of daily Google searches have never been searched before. This translates to opportunities that can be unearthed using smart keyword research strategies.
However, a high monthly search volume (MSV) isn’t the end all and be all in keyword research because:
- A keyword with a high MSV may not be the right keyword for your business and may have vague search intent. Ranking high in a specific keyword won’t matter if the keyword isn’t relevant to your goals.
- High search volume may deliver more traffic but not necessarily lead to conversions. Sometimes, low-volume searches are the better option to increase your sales pipeline and revenues.
- Some high-traffic keywords may not be aligned with your marketing objectives. Some effectively drive awareness, which isn’t enough if seeking higher advertising revenues is your goal.
While high-volume searches give marketers a peek at user search activities, it’s only one of the few aspects required to understand user intent. Choosing relevant keywords aligning with your business goals sets you up for improved organic search rankings.
2. Query types
When a search query is entered, for instance, a broad head term like ‘keyword,’ search engines typically refer to the other pages that users click on for the same query to provide relevant results.
But recently, search engines using machine-learning algorithms use complex processes to improve their understanding of queries and user intent. This activity involves identifying the type of query and classifying them accordingly.
Query types are classified according to these categories:
- Informational searchers want more information about a topic or an answer to a specific question. In a marketer’s view, this query may come from top-of-funnel buyers.
- Navigational queries are often called brand searches, where users look for particular brands, a company site or page, etc.
- Commercial searches often involve users seeking more information from specific brands, products, or services and typically happen after the two query types discussed earlier. These searches are often linked to potential buyers in the middle stages of their purchasing journey.
- Transactional searches are performed by prospects preparing to complete a purchase.
Generally, good SEO practice involves looking at keyword modifiers to determine query type. For instance, ‘best’ and ‘affordable’ signal a transactional search, while ‘what,’ ‘where’, and ‘how’ often denote informational queries.
3. User intent
Meeting a user’s search intent is one of search engines’ most important ranking considerations. In other words, your keyword must address users’ needs.
User intent is key to knowing the results potential buyers want to read after launching a query. Identifying this is paramount for brands to pick the most relevant keywords to insert into their content and advertising campaigns on AdWords, for instance.
For example, you may have the best video discussing why ‘keyword research’ is important in SEO, but users looking for instructions and tools won’t click on your content. Unless your resource indicates you’ll discuss them in the video using the appropriate keywords in the description.
Search engines must recognise your content as a great fit for a user’s search intent so that it will rank highly on the SERP. You can learn more about Google’s search quality evaluator guidelines on their site, which is updated regularly.
Core Stages of Keyword Research
SEOers and marketers go through different processes depending on their goals. But these activities can be divided into three primary actions:
Finding relevant keywords using keyword tools is one of the keys to a successful SEO and search marketing campaign. But it’s easier said than done, and some activities can take time, especially without keyword research tools. Such tools help boost businesses’ keyword ideas with their features, including keyword generators and suggestions.
You can likewise find keywords outside these tools. You don’t have to look far and start with the search results panel, where auto suggestions, related searches, and ‘people also ask’ sections are published.
Similarly, you can scour social media channels and communities to find keyword ideas. Keyword clustering is another potential source.
After gathering potentially relevant keywords, businesses will have to prioritise keywords by studying key metrics and pre-set criteria. Search volume and keyword difficulty are the top considerations, as we all as cost per click (CPC) if running paid ads like AdWords on the world’s most popular search engine.
Search volume tells you how popular a specific keyword is, while keyword difficulty shows how challenging it is to rank for such a keyword in organic SERPs.
Keyword research tools also have built-in metrics for better overall keyword analysis. They come in handy when performing:
- Keyword discovery, where you can see which keywords you rank for.
- Competitor keyword research enables you to analyse how competitors run their campaigns and how you can improve yours.
- Backlink data shows high-quality sites linking to one of your site pages.
- Picking the right keywords
The final stages of keyword research involve prioritising keywords by understanding user intent. As mentioned, search engines prioritise user intent to determine page relevance and play a key role in influencing whether your content ranks well in the organic search results.
Keyword research tools likewise help businesses determine the value of ranking high for a particular keyword. Not all organically relevant keywords lead to conversions, so advanced keyword research is crucial.
At its core, advanced keyword research seeks to:
- Find untapped keywords across all platforms
- Explore unique keyword ideas
- Identify uncommon seed keywords
- Recognise low-competition and high-volume search keywords
- Precisely match user’s search intent and their position on the content marketing funnel
With diligence and keyword research tools, search marketers can cover all the bases and find the most valuable keywords for their business and campaign goals.
Why Keyword Research Matters in SEO
When combined with other SEO efforts and regular SEO audits, identifying business and niche-relevant keywords can boost a page’s organic search ranking and site and business performance. Ultimately, a better online presence can put companies ahead of competitors and generates multiple business benefits.
Here are the many ways keyword research can boost your SEO efforts:
Keyword research is one of the foundations for a good SEO strategy
We’ve said it multiple times before, and we’re saying it again: search engines seek to satisfy users by understanding their search intent and ranking the most relevant results based on the keywords entered and other pre-set criteria.
As such, keyword research is a foundational activity in every SEO campaign. Choosing the most relevant keywords and using them strategically across all online channels can help boost your brand’s visibility since your page can rank well in organic searches for the said topic.
A business that enjoys high visibility, especially those that appear at the top, enjoys over 28% of the total click-through rates. That’s 2,800 for every 10,000 clicks!
Keyword research is likewise mandatory for SEO because it shows your strengths and weaknesses, including where the opportunities and gaps are, pointing your campaign in the right direction.
Keyword research is key to understanding your audience and market
SEO strategies are user-centric, just like how most businesses are. That said, research marketers need to understand their audiences’ needs, behaviour, and preferences to give them what they need.
Studying potential buyers’ wants, needs, and the problems they want solutions to can help businesses correctly identify user intent. More importantly, it provides valuable insights about your market, allowing you to craft effective campaigns, even outside search marketing.
Keyword research enhances your content strategy
A good content strategy demands more than just creating impeccable content. You may have a wealth of great content, but if your audience can’t find them, you’ll still end up disconnected from your potential buyers.
Keyword research addresses this pervasive problem by identifying niche-relevant search terms to target and rank for. Similarly, using these keywords, you can plan your content based on the topics your audiences seek.
Choosing the right words is important in creating any digital resource while picking relevant keywords is paramount in improving them. With both, you not only have resources with high-ranking potential, but you’ll also identify the right platforms to publish it on.
Keyword research boosts website performance
Strategic keyword research helps you rank higher for specific search phrases, increasing your chances of appearing on the first page of the SERP. As you’ve read earlier, over 28% of users click on Google Search’s top result, while 16% explore the second. The third spot typically gets 11%, and the fourth to tenth placers corner two to eight per cent of the audience—leaving second page SERP placers to share the measly 0.63% or less than one per cent of the remaining CTR.
Targeting to rank on relevant keywords and using them cleverly in any SEO-friendly content puts your site at the front and centre of search engines. Appearing high on organic searches helps you capture better click-through rates and unique views, increasing session times and overall user engagement.
Keyword research takes more than knowing how to find keywords for a website. It’s about finding relevant and valuable search phrases that positively impact your site and marketing efforts. To drive traffic to your site and help you rank in searches, you need to know which topics your audience is searching for and care about.
By understanding your market better, you can pick keywords with high business value and use them strategically in optimising content. Thus, good keyword research is the basis for connecting and nurturing your audience and making buyers and loyal customers out of them.
Subscribe to Our Blog
Stay up to date with the latest marketing, sales, service tips and news.