December 05 2022

The Backbone of An SEO Strategy: Keyword Research

seo keyword researchWhen it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) strategies and copywriting, most marketers understand that keywords are an important element. But how these keywords are selected, how they are integrated into content and what other elements work together with these keywords are all critical components to better optimizing your website.

What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the process of finding and analyzing search terms that people enter in search engines. Keyword research can reveal search terms to target, the popularity of the search term and the level of competition to organically rank on these keywords. Keyword research should be your first step as an SEO marketer to ensure that you are creating content with data to justify it.

Types of Keywords: Short and Long-Tail Keywords

There are two types of keywords: short-tailed and long-tailed. Short-tail keywords are between one and two words in length. Long-tail keywords can be classified as key phrases consisting of 5 or more words. Most marketers initially just focus on the shorter phrases but it’s the longer phrases that can present the best opportunities for marketers, especially those in highly competitive markets like financial services or legal services.

An example of a long-tail keyword is “What Savings Account is good for long term growth?” Targeting long-tail keywords is a great way to gradually increase SEO traffic because the level of competition for these keywords is much lower compared to that of short-tail keywords. Usually, conversion rates for these keywords are higher too because they are used by searchers who are looking for specific information, products, or services.

In contrast, an example of a short-tail keyword is “Savings Account”. When doing keyword research, you’ll typically notice that the competition for these keywords and the search volume is much higher than the long-tail keyword. When creating your SEO plan, it’s best to avoid focusing on these phrases so that you don’t set yourself up for unrealistic expectations.

Why Keyword Research is Important

Keyword research can provide your business with important details such as where you rank for keywords, which keywords are simple, and which keywords your competitors rank for. Keyword research will help you indicate whether pursuing a particular topic is worthwhile. To perform a competitive analysis, you'll need to determine how authoritative the other websites listed for the keywords you're interested in are.

Keyword research will reveal what people are looking for, not what you believe they're looking for. It is important to remember that you should be creating content based on what people want to discover; not what your business wants to tell people. When it comes to keyword research, you'll need to really research your target audience and what they are truly looking for at different stages of the buying cycle. Understanding customer behavior and trends will help you write better and provide your customers with what they want.

Once your keyword is complete, it’s important to weave those terms into multiple pages of your website. You will only want to focus on one topic per page however, so the keyword research can also influence your site architecture strategy. Additionally, identifying target keywords before you begin to plan your blogs and outreach will help your website gain more targeted visitors through organic search.

How To Get Started with Keyword Research

1.Understand search intent

Understanding search intent is to put yourself in the shoes of potential consumers and truly understand the purpose of their search. As you conduct your SEO keyword research, consider whether your content truly matches the consumer’s intent. A perfect match will compel the consumer to stay on your page for longer and help you rank higher on SERPs. The four types of search intent are:

  • Informational - Your prospects want to learn something
  • Navigational - Your prospects are looking for a specific company or website
  • Transactional - Your prospects are comparing specific products or services and are almost ready to purchase.
  • Commercial - Your prospects are prepared to buy now.

2.Start with a broad list of topics

Now that you know to look out for search intent you can move on to brainstorming which keywords best match your needs. You will want to create a spreadsheet with general categories for the keywords you wish to rank for. These might correspond to product categories or anything you believe your target audience would be interested in. Make sure to keep this list simple with no more than 10 topics.
For example, if you are a financial institution, you might be interested in keyword topics such as personal accounts, retirement planning, wealth management and home loans.

3.Expand topics with relevant phrases

You should identify the terms and phrases your target customer might type into their Google search to locate information or products. If you already have data from analytics software like Google Analytics, look through your organic search traffic reporting to identify keywords consumers have used to arrive at your website. Create a list under each general topic and add it to your spreadsheet.
For the financial institution example above, under the category “personal accounts” you might list:

  • Checking Account

  • Savings Account

  • Certificate of Deposit

  • Money Market Account

4.Find related search terms

There are many ways to add more keywords to your list. The easiest is to head over to Google and search one of your keyword phrases. Scroll to the bottom of the page where you will find a list of related searches. The website AnswerThePublic is a great tool to use to find out which phrases people are searching for your related topic. You will receive a whole chart of search queries broken down by who, what, when, where and why. Lastly, you can visit Google Keyword Planner to see which relevant terms people are using the most.

5.Find the strength of keywords

The easiest way to accomplish this is to use the Google Keyword Planner. When you analyze your keywords, you should be looking out for how high the search volume is in your specific geographic footprint. If no one is searching for the keyword or phrase, it won’t be good to structure a strategy around it. You can also use Google Keyword Planner to check for related terms you may have missed that have high search volume.

6.Discover how you rank in your industry

It is important to analyze the competition for the keywords you have selected. If you discover that you would be competing against big brand names, then you will want to alter your strategy to identify less competitive long-tail keywords. The one exception to this strategy is if your competitors haven’t been publishing quality content. If you know you can outdo their content in length, quality, and layout, then you may be able to outrank them.
Remember that keyword research is only the foundation of your SEO strategy. To truly stand out, ensure that every blog post, article, and product description is more valuable, readable, and complete than your competition’s. Pay attention to the layout and on-page SEO of each piece of content and make your website easy to scan, mobile-friendly and aligned with all technical SEO best practices too. When a prospect enters a search query into Google, they are on a quest for something, and every question needs a matching answer.

Keep in mind that organic SEO is a long-term process. While you may rank quickly for specific terms or phrases, most businesses gradually climb up the search engine results page. Rankings will also fluctuate due to a variety of factors – some of which may not always be in your control such as Google algorithm changes.

Improve your SEO strategy and grow your audience with ZAG Interactive’s expert guidance. We can help you create stronger connections with your customers and track your performance with our digital analytics services. Contact us to discuss your search engine optimization needs.

  • Content
  • SEO
  • Website

posted by
Brianna Dudding
Brianna Dudding
Digital Strategist

ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, offering website design, development, marketing and digital strategy to clients nationwide. See current job openings.
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