What is keyword research?
Before we start explaining the process of keyword research, let’s look at the most important concepts behind it.
Keyword research can be defined as the work you do to come up with an extensive list of keywords you want to rank for.
Keyword strategy is about the decisions you make on the basis of that keyword research.
Key phrases are keywords containing multiple words. We tend to use the word keyword all the time, but we don’t necessarily mean it’s only one word. ‘WordPress SEO’ is a keyword, as is ‘Google Analytics plugin’. Keywords usually consist of multiple words! So, in this guide, when we talk about keywords, we usually mean a phrase, rather than a single word.
Long tail keywords are more specific and less common because they focus more on a niche. The longer (and more specific) search terms are, the easier it will be to rank for the term. Keywords that are more specific (and often longer) are usually referred to as long tail keywords.
Focus keyword is the keyword or the key phrase you most want your page to be found for. You should put your focus keyword into the meta box of the Yoast SEO plugin.
Search intent is all about discovering what a searcher actually wants. These are not just keywords, but the underlying goals of what a searcher wants to know, do or buy.
Why is keyword research important?
Proper keyword research is important because it will make clear which search terms your audience uses. At Yoast, we frequently come across clients who use one set of words when describing their products, while their target audience uses a completely different set of words. These sites aren’t found by their potential customers because of a mismatch in word use.
Sometimes a marketing department decides to give their products a certain name. That can be a smart marketing decision. It can be a way to make people remember your product. For example, you don’t rent out vacation homes, but ‘vacation cottages’. Be aware that very few people search for ‘vacation cottages’. If you optimize your text for these terms, you’ll probably rank well on these specific terms. However, you won’t generate a lot of traffic with these terms and you’ll miss a large part of your potential audience.
It doesn’t make any sense to optimize for words that people don’t use. Good keyword research makes sure that you use the same words as your target audience and this makes the whole effort of optimizing your website far more worthwhile. In addition, by looking at search intent, you find out which questions your customer has. Those questions should get an answer in the form of quality content.
How to do keyword research
For us, there are three steps to keyword research. First, you write down the mission of your business. Next, you make a list of all the keywords you want to be found for. Finally, you create landing pages for each of those keywords. This ultimate guide takes you through these three steps in much more detail.
Step by step we’ll guide you through the entire keyword research process, and we’ll give you practical tips to easily start your own keyword research.
Step 1: What is your mission?
Before starting anything, think about your mission. Think about questions like: Who are you? What is your website about? What makes you special? And what promises do you make on your website?
A lot of people can’t effectively answer these questions at first. You have to figure out what makes you stand out from the crowd. So take your time and literally write down your mission on a piece of paper, a computer or an iPad – anything will do, as long as you do it. Once you’re able to answer these questions in detail, you will have taken the first and most important step in your keyword strategy.
Step 2: Make a list of keywords
The second step of keyword research is creating a list of your keywords. With your mission in mind, try to get into the heads of your potential buyers. What will these people be looking for? What kind of search terms could they be using while looking for your amazing service or product? Ask yourself these questions and write down as many answers as possible.
If your mission is clear, you will have a pretty clear image of your niche and your unique selling points (the things that set your business apart from others). These are the terms you want to be found for.
Tools you can use
Making a list of possible search terms is hard. Up until a few years ago you could just check Google Analytics and see the terms people used to find your website, but unfortunately, that’s no longer possible. So you have pretty much no idea which terms people use in search engines to end up at your website. Luckily, there are still some other tools which make your keyword research a bit easier. Read our post about tools you can use in your keyword research for more tips and tricks.
Step 3: Look at search intent
Much of today’s SEO strategy should revolve around answering the questions people have. Whenever someone enters a search query into a search engine, they are on a quest for something. Every type of question needs a specific answer. In my SEO basics article on search intent, I said:
“Search intent has to do with the reason why people conduct a specific search. Why are they searching? Are they searching because they have a question and want an answer to that question? Are they searching for a specific website? Or, are they searching because they want to buy something?”
When planning your content, always ask yourself these questions. There are four types of intents:
- Informational intent: Just like it says on the tin, people are trying to find information on a specific topic.
- Navigational intent: People want to access a specific website by entering the term in a search engine.
- Commercial intent: People want to buy something sometime soon and are doing research before making a purchase.
- Transactional intent: People are looking to buy something after doing their commercial intent searches.
Find out which intents apply to you and try to answer these search intents by literally giving people what they want.
Step 4: Construct landing pages
The next step towards a long-term keyword strategy is to create awesome landing pages. In the past, every one of the keywords you want to be found for got its own landing page. Today, however, search engines are so smart that they mostly use search intent to give searchers the best answer to their questions. The page that answers those questions best will rank on top. Search engines also understand subtle differences between keywords so you don’t have to do your utmost best to distinguish singular and plural terms, for instance. So you can optimize a page for multiple keywords.
We would advise you to build your page structure in a well-structured way – using a spreadsheet programme like Excel or Google Docs/Sheets is a great way to do this. Create a table then add your list of keywords. Using a table forces you to set up a structure and to make relevant landing pages. Put the search terms in the first column and add columns for the different levels of your site’s structure.
Then you’ll need to build a landing page for your search terms, but you don’t have to create all these pages immediately – it can be a long-term thing. The more specific your search term is, the further down into your site structure the term’s landing page belongs. The most important keywords will lead to your cornerstone content articles. These are the keywords you definitely want to rank for. To do this, you create the best possible content about that keyword – authoritative and all-encompassing, just like the ultimate guide you are reading right now. All your supporting articles will link to this cornerstone content. This should be part of your internal linking strategy, which Yoast SEO Premium can help you implement.
After completing your keyword research for SEO, you should have a clear overview of the terms people use and the terms you want the pages on your site to be found for. This overview should guide you in writing content for your website.
Long-term keyword strategy
No website should rely on one single keyword or one keyphrase for its traffic. You should use your mission as a starting point, then take our three steps in carrying out proper keyword research and work towards a solid base: a keyword strategy. This section of our ultimate guide explains why it’s important to have a long-term keyword strategy.
How many keywords?
We can’t tell you the exact number of keywords you should have, but we can tell you that you need a lot of them – as many as you can think of. However, more than 1000 keywords is probably too many!
Even if you’re a reasonably small business, you’ll probably end up with a couple of hundred keywords. But there’s no need to create pages for all of these straight away. The great thing about having a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress is that you can add content bit by bit. Think about what keywords you want to rank for now, and which ones aren’t immediately so important. Understand your priorities and plan the creation of your content.
Ad hoc keyword research strategies
In an ideal world, you would do your keyword research, make a beautiful table and create landing pages for each one. Your site structure would be flawless and you would blog and write every day making your site rank higher and higher in Google. Unfortunately, we live in the real world.
Of course, your keyword research will not always be as extensive. And some posts or articles aren’t written as part of an awesome strategy, but just because the topic was in the news or something inspired you to write it. That’s just how these things work. But this doesn’t have to be a problem.
If you’re writing something that doesn’t exactly fit your strategy, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make that content rank. You could still use it to rank for something related to the terms in the list of your keyword strategy. Use tools like Google Trends to choose which keyword you’d like to rank for. At least take some time to think about how to make your article or blog fit your strategy. After all, if you are writing valuable content, you might as well make it rank!
Keywords are just words and therefore can have any length and intention. There are three different types of keywords, which differ in the search intention and the associated wording.
- Brand keywords
- Money Keywords
- Compound Keywords
Brand keywords , too German brand, it already says so. The keyword includes, for example, a brand name or the name of a product. For example, “obility” could be a brand keyword.
Money keywords always play directly on the willingness to spend money. So there is a purchase intent behind it. For example, “order invitation cards online” would be a money keyword.
Finally, there are the compound keywords . These are very precise and usually longer descriptions of a concern. They are detailed and often contain prepositions and conjunctions. “Invitation cards for children’s birthday firefighters order online” would be a good example.
Other factors: search volume and competitors
In addition to substantive distinctions, keywords can also be divided by their search volume and their competition. The keywords are divided into short, mid and long tail keywords.
Short tail keywords are usually short and contain no more than two words. Since they are not very detailed, they have a very high search volume and high competition. Therefore, one should not rely only on short tail keywords. Examples of short tail keywords: “Berlin Printing Company” or “Wedding Invitations”.
Longtail keywords are, as the name implies, long and multi-word keywords. Due to their length, they are very detailed. This can be used to draw advantages as well as disadvantages. A big advantage is the low competition. Because there are fewer online printing companies, for example, “green wedding invitations in hunting style order online”, such as “wedding invitations”. The disadvantage, however, is that, of course, fewer people search for exactly this keyword. However, the one who is looking for it will most likely be referred to your site. Longtail keywords, in particular, serve to directly address the target group and try to avoid large wastage losses.
Midtail keywords are therefore exactly between short and longtail keywords. Both in length and in detail they are right in the middle. This provides a good opportunity if you do not trust the short or longtail keywords at the beginning.