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SEO Guide Stage 1: Keyword Research

Search Engine Optimisation

This post is Stage 1 in our complete guide to search engine optimization.
Click here for the Full SEO Guide.

As we progress through an era of Web 3.0, it’s becoming increasingly more important for websites to serve the right content that fits their audience’s needs. A huge part of this is about creating the right content, but an equally important aspect is getting it in front of the right people.

That’s why targeting the right keywords is so critical. Search intent lies at the heart of keywords and it’s up to marketers to make sure their SEO efforts match what their audiences are searching for.

Keyword research is a critical element in your SEO journey. 75% of search clicks go to the first page of search engine results. So, if your website’s not ranking high, chances are, you won’t get many visitors clicking through to your site. While the reason for a low website ranking could hint at multiple factors, interweaving the right keywords on your web pages can significantly help with the issue.

In this post, we’ll discuss how keyword research has evolved over the years and run through the steps needed to execute a sound keyword research project. If you’re looking to up your SEO planning game then read on!

Keyword Research and Usage: Then vs. Now

Back in the day, when marketers used to stuff keywords into pages to improve relevance and rankings, paragraphs often sounded redundant, long-winded, and unnatural. It wasn’t long before Google was able to detect and penalize websites using this technique. Since then, SEO marketers looked to a different direction for strategy and keyword integration.

Latent Semantic Indexing or LSI hence became a popular technique. LSI keywords are similarly related keywords to your main keyword. By using synonyms and varying the words, there’s less chance of getting penalized by search engines and higher chances for your text to read better.

Keyword research eventually expanded to “keyphrase” research, better known as long-tail keywords. With the number of web pages and content that get uploaded daily, it’s becoming more difficult to find exactly what you’re looking for. Long-tail keywords are more specific and paint a clearer picture of what people are searching for. For instance, instead of “internet marketing,” one may search for something like “internet marketing trends 2019”.

Technological advancement also plays a big role in how keyword research will continue to change over the years. AI assistants like Siri and Alexa have become more popular, pushing voice search into the forefront of SEO. Eventually, this will impact how you optimize your site’s marketing strategy.

How to Perform Keyword Research

Keyword research is simple, but you need to be very strategic. Here are the steps to help you select, modify, and refine the most suitable keywords for your site.

Step 1: Create a list of topics you want to write about

What topics and areas relevant to your business do you want to write about or focus on? This will help you craft your keywords later on. Don’t pressure yourself to create specific topics yet; go for general topics first to kick things off. What types of content would potential customers search that you’d want your business to get found for.

If you need a bit of inspiration about what topics to select, you can always check out what your competitors are doing, look for insights from relevant social media communities, or see what people are saying on forums and Q&A sites like Quora.

For coherence in this article, we’ll be using a mock travel business to search keywords for you. In this industry, you might want to build on topics like “travel essentials,” “packing checklist,” “top travel destinations,” “best hotels,” “travel itinerary,” and the like. These topics will become your backbone for defining your list of target keywords.

Step 2: Assign keywords to your topics

After gathering relevant topics, you can assign keywords to them. Think of it as the main topic area of your article, one that you will keep referring to or is very important to mention. A blog post can contain more than one keyword but it’s a good idea to be as specific as possible for maximum effect.

Using the same travel business as above, it’s possible to come up with:

  • Top hotels in Manila
  • Best beach resorts 2018
  • What to pack for travel
  • Best sites for travel deals

It’s important that you put yourself in your customers’ shoes at this step. If you were planning to go on vacation, what kinds of search queries might you enter in Google? Don’t be afraid to get too specific here. Go for a healthy mix of short-tail and long-tail keywords.

To help further refine your list of target keywords, you can use the keyword golden ratio strategy, which identifies the best long-tail keywords by factoring in competition and search volume.

Step 3: Explore related search terms

At the bottom of your search result page, Google includes suggestions of keywords based on what was typed. Explore these suggestions and check if they rank better or if there’s potential for you to cover that keyword in your blog post. Alternatives could include:

  • Best hotels in Manila for staycation
  • Top 10 resorts in the Philippines 2018
  • International travel packing list
  • Best travel agency websites

You should include LSI keywords at this stage to expand your keyword list. LSI Graph is a pretty neat tool that’ll provide you with a bunch of relevant LSI keywords to choose from. You can also look to your competitors for inspiration on what keywords your audience uses. Chances are, they’ve already done the research for you.

Step 4: Refine with keyword research tools

What are search engines saying about the topics you want to write about? It’s time to use a tool to verify your selection. Google Keyword Planner is a useful and free tool to help you get started. Since  of the global search engine market share, it’s pretty safe to say that your efforts for Google will most likely work well for other search engines as well.

Other tools such as Ahrefs and SEMrush are great for keyword exploration. Plus, these tools can help pinpoint which keywords are sending the most traffic your way, check which keywords your competitors are using, and more. It’s a necessary step to invest in a powerful SEO tool.

As a rule of thumb, you should aim for the most relevant keywords with highest search volume and the least competition. These should provide quick wins in terms of ranking your site well. But also keep in mind that SEO is an ongoing process, so you’re in it for the long run. Expect to continually optimize your keyword selection on a regular basis to stay on top of things.

Final Words

Practical and strategic keyword research is the main ingredient for success when it comes to everything about SEO. Think about keywords as the architecture that defines the rest of your SEO strategy. Mastering this step can vastly improve all other processes relevant to your SEO campaigns.

Remember: Keyword research is a strategy of getting your content out there. You’ll also need great content to make your company shine among your competitors. Content and SEO work in tandem and are highly-dependent on each other to succeed.

This blog post is part of our “SEO Guide Series”. Stay tuned for our next post on competitor analysis.