Keyword Research Made Simple: A Step-by-Step SEO Guide - Rank Right Now

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Keyword Research Made Simple: A Step-by-Step SEO Guide

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Performing effective keyword research (and using the right keywords properly) is an essential component of all SEO strategies. However, this isn’t as simple as making a list of relevant phrases and stuffing them into your content. This is a tactic for which you may now actually be penalized.

This guide will help you avoid such mistakes. Here, you’ll learn about the differences between various types of keywords, as well as how to perform keyword research with two of the most popular SEO tools: Google Ads Keyword Planner (free) and SEMrush (paid).


HEADER TERMS VS. LONG-TAIL KEYWORDS

Again, one of the first points to remember when conducting keyword research is that there are different types of keywords you may insert into your content. The following are two of the most commonly-used:

HEADER

Header terms tend to be fairly general. Their name refers to the fact that they are often used in titles and headers throughout content. Examples of such terms can be found in this very article. For instance, this article might be relevant to someone performing general research on “long-tail keywords” by Googling the term. The presence of the words “long-tail keywords” in the header sections of this article tells them they’ve found a relevant article.

This is key to using headers effectively. You need to know the purpose they serve. Including keywords in headers is important because search engines use headers to determine what your content is generally about. They also help users find relevant information in your content. Including relevant keywords in your headers makes it easier for a visitor to identify the section of content that most effectively answers their question.

Using these keywords in headers and similar highlighted text sections orients a reader and tells search engines what basic topic you’re covering. However, due to the general nature of header terms, they are often difficult to rank for. Many others will likely use them in their own content. Additionally, header terms often have a relatively high search volume. This makes them competitive.

That’s why you also need to learn how to generate more specific keywords to include in the body of your content. Header terms serve their purpose, but you want to make sure the exact audience you’re trying to reach is able to find you. That’s what long-tail keywords are for.

LONG-TAIL

People often mistakenly assume the term “long-tail”refers to the number of words in a keyword phrase. This isn’t precisely the case. While it is true that long-tail keywords tend to have more words than other search queries, the term actually refers to a clear visual displayed on this this graph:

The long-tail is simply the search demand graph’s very long tail (the purple section indicating a large amount of unpopular search terms). Long-tail keywords are essentially more specific than header terms and tend to have lower search volume. Internet users search for them when they want to avoid general information.

In addition to adding more words, you can also add geo-specific keywords. Mobile accounts for more searches than desktop, and 82 percent of smartphone shoppers concudct local searches. Instead of searching for a header keyword like “photo booth rental” you may search for “photo booth rental nyc” to refine your search results and find more targeted search results like The Photo Factory.

Regardless is your focus is national or local there are several reasons it’s important to incorporate long-tail keywords into your SEO strategy. Granted, they have lower search volume than other types of keywords, but that can be to your advantage. The lack of competition makes it easier to optimize your ROI. In fact, one study of 1.9 billion keywords revealed that 92.42% only get 10 or fewer searches per month. As it turns out, low-volume, very specific searches tend to reflect how average people search the Internet.

Long-tail keywords are also more likely to reach people when they are ready to take some form of action. A person searching for “best fitness chains” may be conducting basic early research. However, if they are searching for “best boxing gym Brooklyn,” they are probably more inclined to sign up for a membership or make a purchase. That’s a major reason long-tail keywords are so valuable.

This isn’t mere speculation. Research indicates long-tail keywords may yield conversion rates that are 2.5 times higher than those associated with other keywords.

It’s also worth noting that long-tail keywords may provide additional benefits as search trends change. According to one survey, greater than 50% of consumers conducted voice search when seeking information about local businesses last year. That percentage is likely to get higher as voice assistants become more popular.

Long-tail keywords are ideal for voice search. That’s because they tend to correspond to the way people speak more naturally than header terms. This is a trend all SEO professionals should pay attention to in the future.

The body of the content is the best place to include long-tail keywords. That’s partially due to the fact that such terms can appear unnatural in headers. Their resemblance to conversational language tends to make them fit better within sentences.

Just make sure you don’t use long-tail keywords in pieces of content where they aren’t relevant. They should correspond to the content’s purpose. Your SEO will suffer in the long run if you try to trick users and algorithms into believing your blogs and videos cover topics they don’t actually directly relate to.

In fact, long-tail keywords can help you generate new ideas for content. Once you have a list of keyword phrases, you can use them to guide your content strategy. Want to rank for a long-tail keyword you found? You’ll need to produce content which gives you a reason to use it.

INFORMATIONAL VS. COMMERCIAL KEYWORDS

Keywords can also be categorized by the purpose they serve for users. Some people are looking for information on a topic. Others are trying to take some action. You want to make sure you’re targeting the right people with your keywords. Separating them into the following

INFORMATIONAL

As the name implies, these keywords are typically used when a person is seeking general information about a given topic. For instance, an informational keyword search might be “history of Fender guitar.” The following is an example of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

COMMERCIAL

Commercial keywords are also essentially what they sound like. They indicate the person performing the search is looking to make a transaction. For instance, here is the SERP for a “fender guitar for sale” search:

The results are clearly geared towards someone who wants to buy a guitar, not learn about one. That’s why commercial keyword phrases often include transactional language. Words such as “buy,” “sell,” and “discount” are all commonly associated with such keywords.

It’s easy to understand when it would be best to use these. You specifically want to include them in any pages offering relevant products or services.

Of course, you also want to know how these various types of keywords tie together. Long-tail keywords, again, help you reach people who have specific intentions. Those intentions can be to find information or to make a transaction. Thus, long-tail keywords can be either informational or commercial, depending on your goals.

That said, because the vast majority of Internet searches are informational, you’re most likely to use informational long-tail keywords in most of your content.

Header terms can also serve both purposes, although their general nature makes them more suited for informational uses. Essentially, header and long-tail keywords help you rank in SERPs and reach users. Informational and commercial keywords are chosen when you want to target users based on their specific intent.

RESEARCHING KEYWORDS USING GOOGLE ADS KEYWORD PLANNER VS. SEMRUSH

Knowing the difference between various types of keywords is important. That said, you also need to know how to find them.

This section of the guide will teach you the basics of keyword research with two popular tools. You’ll learn the pros and cons of each, helping you determine how and when to use them to improve your list of relevant keywords.

GOOGLE ADS KEYWORD PLANNER

You need to create a Google Ads account before you can start using this tool. Luckily, the tool itself is free. This makes it a useful option for anyone trying to perform effective and thorough keyword research on a budget.

Once you’ve created your account, head to your main page, go up to the Toolbox icon, and select Keyword Planner on the left side of

You’ll be given two options:

We’ll focus on the first option in this guide. Although the second feature is also useful, it’s primarily useful for people who already have a list of keywords and wish to learn more about their search volume. This guide is about the essentials of keyword research.

When you select Find New Keywords, you’re brought the following prompt:

This is where you begin experimenting with keyword ideas. TIP: Have a list of ideas ready beforehand to test out. They can be general words related to your business or more specific phrases. You can also insert a URL to your page (or a similar page). Google will provide keyword ideas based on it.

Let’s start with “guitar store” as an example (although you can search for more than one keyword at once). This is what the tool generates when you search for this keyword:

This is merely a small snippet. Google suggests 750+ related terms, so the results actually continue for much longer. It’s important for you to understand how to sort through them.

First, based on the search volume for “guitar store,” you can assume it’s not quite a long-tail keyword. It would be more of a header term. A long-tail keyword would be something like “vintage guitar store in NYC.” Both would qualify as commercial keywords, as the word “store” indicates the person making the search is interested in making a transaction.

You can see at the very top of the pic above that Google allows users to modify a search based on locations, language, and search networks. This may be useful if you run a local business and don’t want to generate keywords that correspond to another part of the world.

Google also lets users sort keywords by average monthly search volume. You can sort the list from highest to lowest:

OR FROM LOWEST TO HIGHEST

Keywords with a high search volume will be very difficult to rank for. High-volume keywords are often better for headers. Moderate-to-low volume keyword searches are typically better for long-tail. The picture above illustrates some potential ideas for long-tail keywords.

The other features, such as Competition and Ad Impression share, relate to using these words in Google Adwords campaigns. The Google Ads Keyword Planner technically exists for this purpose. However, even if you’re not running a Google Adwords campaign, you can still use this tool to generate keyword ideas. Some of the features related to Google Adwords campaigns can also provide you valuable information about your keywords. For instance, this is what we’re provided with if we sort our results by “Top of page bid (high range)”:

Although it isn’t always the case, it’s often true that higher bids indicate higher revenue potential.

It’s also worth noting that the GAKP tends to be very general unless you’re actively running a Google Ads campaign. For instance, users who have active campaigns will see a specific number of average monthly searches, while users without active campaigns will only see a range. Luckily, there are ways to get more information about keywords without running a campaign. More about SEMrush later.

Select Plan Overview on the left navigation toolbar, and you’re brought to this page:

Impressions tells you how many people search for this term each month. You also get information about Click-Through Rates. This helps you better determine if a keyword is right for your goals. You’re also provided with information about which devices people are using to perform searches for this keyword. Thus, you can more easily determine which devices to optimize for when creating content.

You can also use filtering tools to get more relevant ideas. Return to the Keyword Ideas page, select Filters>Keyword Text>contains”and add words such as “NYC”. The following are the results:

SEMRUSH

SEMrush is a tool designed specifically for improving SEO and performing keyword research. Although you have to pay to use SEMrush, you’ll benefit from having access to a resource that expands on many of the GAKP’s functions, as illustrated below.

Start by creating your account and logging in. If you’re not ready to committ to paying for SEMrush then you can sign-up for a free trial here. You’ll be brought to this screen:

Select “Keyword Analytics” and then select the “Keyword Magic Tool.”

As with the GAKP, you’ll be given the option to enter a keyword idea. Let’s do “guitar store” again:

At first, the results may look very similar to those the GAKP provides. Let’s take a closer look to understand why this tool is different. First, in the upper righthand corner, you’ll see the Add to Keyword Analyzer feature:

This lets you select keywords from the results and keep them in a list for future analysis, instead of having to write them all down on your own. You can also refine your search with the following options:

Broad Match is the default option. If we choose Phrase Match, here are our results:

All the results include the specific search phrase. Exact Match is different in that it only yields results in which the words in the keyword phrase is always in the exact same order as they were written when we performed our search. If we choose Related, we get these results:

This includes results in which SEMrush identifies other words and phrases that may be associated with the keyword you’re researching. For instance, someone searching for a guitar store is also essentially someone searching for guitar equipment in many cases. A result containing the words “guitar equipment” is thus displayed. This helps you come up with similar keyword ideas you may have otherwise overlooked.

For the purposes of this guide, let’s return to the results as displayed when we select Broad Match. You will probably get some results that have no relevance to you at all.

Imagine we’re trying to promote an independent NYC guitar store with this example. The following list appears beside our results:

It’s clear some of the words and phrases here, such as “TX,” “CA,” and “vintage,” aren’t related to our needs. We can click on the eye icons to hide results featuring such words.

This adds them to the Excluded Keywords list when you select Advanced Filters. These results also tell us the term “guitar store” is fairly general:

These filters also give you the opportunity to refine your search. This is particularly helpful when you’re trying to come up with specific types of keywords. For example, as you’ve learned, long-tail keywords tend to have a relatively low search volume when compared to others. Let’s set our range at 500 to 2,000 and remove any keywords that aren’t related to our main goal:

This helps you come up with ideas for keywords to include in the body of your content the way you would use long-tail keywords.

You can also come up with ideas for m ore specific phrases. Here, we’re returning to our original results, sorting them by Volume (this helps you separate different types of keywords from each other) and, selecting the arrow next to one to come up with a chain of words often used in relevant searches:

Finally, when you’ve selected a few keywords you want to learn more about, head to the Keyword Analyzer:

You may have to select Update Metrics before any relevant information in certain columns is displayed. A column worth paying particular attention to is the Click Potential column. According to SEOrush, this is “an estimate of the probability (in percentage) of getting traffic to your webpage if it ranks in the top search results for a given keyword.” This gives you a clearer idea of whether a keyword is worth focusing on. In some cases, it may not be. Even if you rank high for it, it might not deliver a substantial ROI.

The Competitive Density column will also tell you how how competitive a keyword is for marketers bidding on specific keywords. SEOrush calculates density on a scale of 0 to 1.00. The higher the number, the more competitive the word. While this feature is technically for people running ad campaigns, it can tell you how much general competition there is for a keyword.

SEMrush is also valuable because it allows you to research the keywords your competitors are using. For this step, click on Domain Analytics on the left toolbar and select Organic Research. Here, we can enter the URL of a competitor’s site. We’re using guitarcenter.com for this example:

Select the Positions tab when the results appear. As you can see, the total traffic associated with all the keywords in these results is 6.1 million, which is very high. We want to narrow the results down to help us identify long-tail keywords. We also don’t want any branded keywords that are specifically associated with Guitar Center. Remember, you essentially can’t compete for those.

Thus, we’ll apply an advanced filters to exclude branded keywords. We’ll also adjust the volume so we only get results with a 0-10 search volume. Finally, we’ll specify we want keywords for which the domain being analyzed (in this case, guitarcenter.com) typically ranks in the top 10 for organic search results.

Now we have a list of low search volume keywords a popular competitor uses. This helps us develop our own list of long-tail keywords.

Experiment with Google Ads Keyword Planner and SEMrush to come up with a list of keywords for your business. You’ll get more comfortable using them once you have time to familiarize yourself with their various features and capabilities.

Most importantly, be proactive. Developing an effective SEO strategy requires being willing to monitor your progress and make adjustments when necessary. Although the information here will help you come up with your first list of keywords (and help you know how to use them in your content), that doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly see conversions double. You need to try various keywords and ways of using them. These points will simply help you get started.

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