A Guide to Keyword Research: The Key to Unlocking Your Digital Marketing Success
While we try to avoid short answers to such questions – not wanting our answers to be used to reason ‘OK ! THAT’S all we need to do!’, because there are many important elements to an SEO strategy, but our wandering answers invariably circle back to one key concept: Keyword Research.
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is the process of identifying the words and phrases that people use in search engines. It’s a crucial aspect of search engine optimisation (SEO), content marketing, and overall digital marketing strategy. The goal is not just to drive traffic, but to drive the right traffic – those who are genuinely interested in your products or services and are more likely to convert.
The Importance of Keyword Research
You may wonder why keyword research is so pivotal. Here’s why:
- Understanding Your Audience: Keywords provide a window into your audience’s needs, questions, and desires. By analysing keyword data, you can gauge user intent and align your content accordingly.
- Content Creation and Optimization: Keywords guide the creation of your content, ensuring it’s relevant to your target audience and can rank higher on search engines.
- Driving Quality Traffic: Properly researched keywords can drive more qualified traffic, leading to improved conversions and business growth.
Now, let’s look into some statistics that illustrate the importance of keyword research.
According to a study by BrightEdge (2021), “68% of online experiences begin with a search engine.” This data signifies the immense potential of search engines as traffic drivers. Another report from Backlinko (2022) suggests that “organic search accounts for 53.3% of all web traffic.” Without appropriate keywords, your content will struggle to gain visibility in this vast organic space.
According to Moz, the first page of Google captures 71% of search traffic clicks and this stat has been reported to be as high as 92% in recent years. Moreover, the traffic drops dramatically for second-page results, these receive below 6% of all website clicks! Hence, using the right keywords to rank higher is vital if you are to capture a significant share of this traffic.
Best Practices for Keyword Research
Keyword research is both an art and a science. It involves understanding your target audience, the language they use, and how they search for information online. Here’s an expanded look at the best practices for keyword research:
Understand User Intent:
Google’s BERT update, released in 2019 and refined since then, allows the search engine to better understand the context of words in search queries. It focuses on interpreting the intent behind a user’s search rather than just the individual words. Understanding this intent is now more crucial than ever for effective keyword research.
User intent generally falls into three categories: informational (seeking knowledge), navigational (looking for a specific website), and transactional (wanting to purchase). By focusing on why users are making a specific search, you can tailor your keywords and content to meet their specific needs. For example, for transactional queries, you may use keywords like “buy,” “price,” or “discount,” while informational queries may involve words like “how to,” “benefits,” or “reviews.”
Use Keyword Research Tools:
Several tools can help discover popular keywords, their search volume, competition, and more.
- SEMRush: This tool provides comprehensive data, including keyword variations, search volume, number of results, and trends. It also gives you a snapshot of the keywords your competitors rank for.
- Ahrefs: Ahrefs’ keyword explorer gives you a keyword difficulty score, suggesting how hard it would be to rank on the first page. It also shows click data, indicating how many clicks you can expect from a given keyword.
- Google Keyword Planner: This free tool by Google provides keyword ideas based on your inputs and shows historical data and forecasts for keywords, including predicted clicks and impressions.
- Answer The Public: A fantastic tool for finding question-based and long-tail keywords, visualizing the questions people ask about a particular topic.
Analyse Keyword Difficulty:
It’s not enough to find a keyword with high search volume; you also need to consider how difficult it would be to rank for that keyword.
Keyword difficulty is an estimate of how hard it would be to rank in the top 10 organic search results for a particular keyword. Factors that contribute to keyword difficulty include the number of referring domains to each page in the top 10 results, the relevance of your website content to the keyword, and the overall SEO authority of your website. High difficulty keywords might require more robust link-building efforts and high-quality content to compete.
While single-word keywords might have high search volume, they are typically highly competitive and may not bring in the right kind of traffic. This is where long-tail keywords come in.
Long-tail keywords are phrases of three or more words that are specific to whatever you are selling or the content you’re creating. They might bring in less traffic, but they can attract more qualified prospects, as the search intent is usually clear. For example, someone searching for “shoes” might just be browsing, but a user who types in “women’s black running shoes size 7” has a clear intent to purchase.
Further, because they are more specific, long-tail keywords often have lower competition, which can make it easier for your content to rank well.
Implementing these best practices in your keyword research strategy can make your SEO efforts more effective and targeted, driving the right traffic to your site and improving conversions.
Common Mistakes in Keyword Research
While keyword research is a crucial component of an effective SEO strategy, it’s also a complex process that can be fraught with pitfalls. Below, we delve into some of the most common mistakes made during keyword research and how you can avoid them:
Ignoring Long-tail Keywords:
It’s tempting to focus solely on broad, high-volume keywords in your industry, but this can often lead to intense competition and lower conversion rates. That’s because while these broad keywords might bring in lots of traffic, they are often not specific enough to attract users who are ready to convert.
Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are more specific and usually indicate a user who is further along in the buying process. AS we’ve already mentioned, a user searching for “women’s running shoes” is likely just browsing, but a user searching for “women’s Asics Gel-Nimbus 23 running shoes size 8” is probably ready to purchase. By ignoring these long-tail keywords, you may miss out on attracting high-intent users who are ready to convert.
Neglecting Local SEO:
For businesses that serve a specific geographical area, failing to optimise for local keywords is a significant oversight.
Local SEO is a strategy that helps your business be more visible in local search results on Google. If you own a brick-and-mortar store or offer services in a certain area, optimizing for local SEO can help you attract more customers from relevant local searches. For instance, a coffee shop in Cambridge should target keywords like “coffee shop in Cambridge” or “best coffee in Cambridge” to attract local customers who are looking for their services. Neglecting to optimize for these local keywords can result in your business being overlooked by customers in your area.
Not Considering Searcher Intent:
Perhaps one of the most critical mistakes in keyword research is not considering the intent behind a user’s search. Search intent refers to the reason a user is conducting a specific search. Are they looking to make a purchase? Are they seeking information? Do they need a specific question answered?
Understanding search intent is essential for selecting the right keywords and creating content that meets users’ needs. For example, if a user is searching for information on how to clean a coffee machine, but you’re using keywords that target users looking to purchase a new coffee machine, you’re not meeting the user’s intent, and your content is unlikely to rank well.
By avoiding these common mistakes, you can conduct more effective keyword research that aligns with your users’ needs and intent, leading to improved visibility, more high-quality traffic, and ultimately, higher conversion rates.
Real-world Success Stories
Let’s look at some real-world examples of businesses that have utilized keyword research effectively:
John Lewis: John Lewis is a department store chain that sells a wide range of products. The company has over 50 stores in the UK. In 2022, John Lewis generated over £5 billion in revenue.
John Lewis uses keyword research to identify popular search terms related to the products that it sells. This helps John Lewis to ensure that its website appears high in search results when people are looking for products in different categories.
In 2019, John Lewis’ average ranking for the top 100 keywords was 8.5. In 2022, their average ranking for the same keywords was 6.1. This represents an improvement of 28%. John Lewis’ organic traffic also increased by 10% in the same time period.
Just Eat: Just Eat is a food delivery service that connects restaurants with customers. The company has over 10 million active customers in the UK. In 2022, Just Eat generated over £2.5 billion in revenue.
Just Eat uses keyword research to identify popular search terms related to food delivery in different cities and towns in the UK. This helps Just Eat to ensure that its website appears high in search results when people are looking for food delivery in their area.
In 2019, Just Eat’s average ranking for the top 100 keywords was 11.5. In 2022, their average ranking for the same keywords was 6.3. This represents an improvement of 44%. Just Eat’s organic traffic also increased by 25% in the same time period.
A Guide to Keyword Research – The Takeaway
Keyword research isn’t just about SEO; it’s about connecting with your customers. Understanding what phrases they use when they search, what questions they’re asking, and what problems they’re looking to solve can inform every aspect of your marketing strategy, from content creation to product development.
Remember that the goal isn’t just to attract any traffic – it’s about attracting the right traffic. And with an effective keyword strategy, you can connect with high-intent visitors who are actively looking for the products or services you offer.
Ultimately, keyword research is about understanding the language your potential customers use to express their needs and offering them the right solutions. So, the next time you’re asked why keyword research is vital, remember – it’s the key to unlocking success in digital marketing.
If You are Struggling with Keyword Research
Keyword research is an essential, and fundamental aspect of search engine optimisation (SEO), like a foundation stone. But keyword research isn’t just about finding the right words. Keyword research is both an art and a science, it’s about understanding your business, your competition, and your customers. It’s an analytical, data-driven process that requires experience and expertise. We, as your digital marketing agency, can work with you, and do the heavy lifting for you. We go beyond the surface, employing our experience and tools to find the keywords that work best for you.
The end result? A stronger online presence, better visibility, and ultimately, an increased likelihood of reaching your prospects when they’re searching for what you offer.
Let us help you navigate the digital landscape with confidence. Our expertise in keyword research ensures your digital marketing strategy is not just data-driven, but also customer-centric and results-oriented.