Search engine optimization (SEO) is an ever-evolving field; what worked well in the past may not be as effective today.
As a blogger, staying up-to-date on the latest SEO trends and best practices is essential so that your content stands out from the competition. This is especially important for beginning bloggers who are just starting a blog.
One of the most powerful tools for achieving SEO success in 2023 is keyword research – uncovering words and phrases related to your blog topic that people are searching for online.
Keyword research helps you identify which topics are popular, allowing you to create content with greater visibility on the search engine results page (SERPs).
In this article, we’ll discuss why keyword research is essential for successful SEO campaigns in 2023 and provide some tips on using keywords strategically to get more readership and higher rankings.
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research means finding and analyzing the words and phrases searchers enter into search engines to find the information they desire.
The goal is to find the search queries related to your niche to target within your content so that your site shows up in the search results to get traffic from those searchers.
Why is Keyword Research Important?
SEO Keyword research is an important SEO strategy because it helps you understand what phrases and words people use to search for information, products, or services related to your business.
Keyword research also helps you analyze the keywords and phrases based on search volume and the ranking competitiveness for those phrases.
This helps you select keywords to optimize your website and content to appear higher on the search results page for those specific terms.
The higher you can rank for your targeted keywords, the more of that search volume you can get as traffic to your site and ultimately land more leads or sales.
In addition, keyword research will help you identify gaps in your content and areas where you can improve your website’s relevance and authority.
How to do SEO Keyword Research
We have established the importance of keyword research as an integral part of your SEO strategy for content marketing.
Now it is time to get into the details of how to do it effectively, depending on your needs.
There are various reasons for generating keywords, and you will use them slightly differently for each. The reasons for keyword research are:
- You are generating keywords to find topics for your entire site that you will break down into topical clusters (content silos). This becomes your high-level content plan.
- You are generating keywords within a given topical cluster to fully develop the article ideas to cover the targeted topic. This becomes your low-level plan of articles to write.
- You are generating the keywords for a specific article – this helps your article cover all the related long-tail keywords around the main keyword you are targeting.
Each of these will focus on a different level of keywords going from the broader keyword topics for your site down to the specific long-tail keyword phrases you will target in a single article for a particular target audience.
But the keyword research tools and strategies are the same and utilize the following steps:
- Generate a list of potential keywords to target
- Analyze keywords to find the best ones to target
- Plan and Generate Content Targeting Your Final List
The following sections are a step-by-step guide for conducting SEO keyword research using the abovementioned approach, including the best keyword research tools available to speed up the process.
Note: You should track the keywords you generate along with their metrics (search volumes, difficulty, exact match keywords in title, etc..) and ranking factors you deem important in a spreadsheet like Google Sheets.
Generate a List of Potential Keywords
The first step in keyword research is to generate a list of relevant keywords. There are many strategies for developing keywords lists, including:
- Generate Seed Words to Optimize Your Keyword Research
- Generate Keywords from Your Seed Word List
- Generate Keywords By Researching Your Competitors
Each one of these strategies is described in detail below.
Generate ‘Seed Keywords’ to Optimize Your Keyword Research
Do you want to speed up your keyword research process while finding more relevant keywords to target in your content?
If so, you must incorporate ‘seed words’ into your SEO keyword research. Seed words are the fundamental starting point for any productive keyword research strategy.
They will help you generate keyword data to uncover the best keywords and related keyword phrases to target when you write content to gain more traffic.
Let’s dive in and discover the power of ‘seed words’ in keyword research and some of the tools and techniques to generate them. And then how to pick the best ones to use to increase the effectiveness of your keyword strategy.
What are Seed Keywords and Why Are They Critical for Keyword Research?
Seed keywords are the words or phrases you start with to generate a list of potential target keyword phrases.
They are the inputs for your keyword research, helping you uncover associated keywords you should be targeting. The quality and depth of keywords you generate in your keyword research depend entirely on the seeds you use.
By learning how to generate and utilize good seed keywords, you can identify a complete range of research keywords to target within your content at the article and topical cluster levels (a group of interlinked articles that cover an entire topic).
Regarding seed keyword research, there are several types of seed keywords that you should take into consideration.
These types include generic high-level topic keywords (i.e.’ sports’), long-tail keywords (i.e., “football coaching tips”), and related keyword phrases (i.e., “athletic training”).
Different Strategies and Tools for Generating Seed Words
There are many tools and approaches that can be harnessed to generate seed words for keyword research.
You will want to use multiple approaches to generate a broad list of ‘seed words’ to complete over your target niche market. Here are some of the best strategies for generating your next ‘seed words.’
Brainstorm Seed Keywords
Brainstorming is usually the first step in generating seed keyword ideas.
You can develop more keyword ideas by breaking down the subject matter of your targeted topics into their primary components and then exploring those facets further.
Thinking creatively and looking for innovative variations that may not emerge in keyword suggestion tools or competitor analysis is imperative.
Consider unique keyword modifiers that would change search intent and uncommon related keywords and phrases.
Google Trends is a great keyword research tool that finds trending searches while allowing you to drill down within a topic and see the relative monthly search volume.
Just enter broad-level topic words and then drill down using the related topics and related searches to generate seed keyword ideas.
FIND Keywords Your Competitors are Not Targeting
Another approach to find keyword ideas is analyzing keywords your competitors are targeting and finding the gaps.
Find the current keywords they currently rank for using a keyword research tool: SemRush (14-day trial), UberSuggest (7-day trial), Ahrefs, or even Google Keyword Planner (free).
Then use ChatGPT to find the words your competition is missing in its content strategy. Just paste the keywords they rank for and ask, “what is missing.”
These “seed words” are a great way to find lower-competition keywords.
Use Answer and Forum Sites
Answer sites like Quora and Answers can provide ‘seed words’ from the questions being asked and answered.
And forum sites like Reddit have entire communities built around most niches that can give you insight into the current trends for additional seed keyword ideas.
The Benefits of Using Seed Words at the Start of Your Keyword Research Process
Incorporating seed words into your keyword research process is essential for finding the keyword opportunities that can drive more organic traffic to your site.
By using the seed keyword, you can identify related keywords that reflect the intent and language of your target audience and help you differentiate your content from the competition to increase your chances of ranking in search results.
Generate Keywords Using Your Seed Words
Use Google Search Tools
Sometimes it is best to start with the source – since we are using looking to target search queries, let’s let google tell us what queries people use.
Google provides some great free keyword research tools to look into the search queries people are using.
Just use your seed words and the following Google keyword research tools and SERP features to find relevant search terms to add to your list of keywords.
I know we utilized Google Trends to generate seed words, but you can also use it to find many related keywords, including currently trending ones.
This keyword research tool can help you find keywords just starting to become popular as searched and get on the leading side of trends. It only provides relative search volumes so that you won’t know the actual search volume of the keywords.
Google Autocomplete Suggestions
The Google search bar contains, as one of its SERP features, one of the best keyword research tools (Autocomplete suggestions) to see the suggested keywords searchers are using related to your current query.
The suggestions it provides are ordered by search volume, helping you see the relative popularity of each suggestion.
You can expand the list by using the following techniques:
- Enter a letter after your seed to find searches (i.e., ‘ keto diet a’ to find phrases that end with a word starting with an ‘a’). Just loop through the alphabet to find interesting keyword phrases.
- Use an ‘_’ as a wildcard to find and extend your seed word (i.e., ‘_ keto diet’ to find phrases that have another word before the phrase keto diet).
Google Related Search Suggestions
Google also provides another great free tool as part of its SERP features by providing a list of “Related Searches” on every search results page.
These are search phrases that google deems related to your original search – you can find some great ideas in these suggestions.
Just cycle through your keywords and copy these related search terms and phrases to your keyword list.
Google Keyword Planner
Google keyword planner is another excellent free keyword research tool to find and generate an extensive keyword list. You will need a google ad account with an ad campaign (which can be paused) configured to access it.
Just enter your list of seed words in the keyword planner, and it will generate new keyword ideas and suggestions and add these to your list of keywords.
Use Keyword Generation Tools
You can use a keyword research tool to speed up the process and generate lists of related keywords based on your seed keywords.
There are many free and premium SEO tools for keyword generation – here is a list of both free and premium keyword planner tools:
Free Keyword Research Tools
These free keyword tools can provide you with tons of organic keywords and may also provide search volume data.
- Google Keyword Planner – Need a Google Ads account to use – only gives you ranges unless you have a campaign that targets the keywords.
- WordStream – gives you volume and google planner ad prices and competition
- Ahrefs Keyword Generator – their free tool only returns ten results
- UberSuggest – 3 requests per day
- SpyFu – returns five keywords and five questions
- Moz Keyword Explorer – need to sign up for ten free queries per month
- Soovle – overview of keywords on every platform
- InfiniteSuggest – bulk lists of keywords
Premium Keyword Research Tools
These premium keyword tools can take your keyword research to the next level. Many have trial subscriptions you can use to do research for free.
- Ahrefs – Expensive but considered the best keyword research tool available
- SemRush – Also expensive but offers a 14-day trial. Another one of the best keyword research tools.
- UberSuggest – The most cost affordable – has a lifetime access option.
- SurferSeo – Chrome extension that gives related keywords with search volumes on search result pages
Generate New Keywords Using Competitor Keyword Research
Another keyword strategy for keyword ideas is to perform competitor keyword research on the top-ranked sites and blogs within your niche.
This helps you cover the same keywords as your competitors.
There are two types of keywords you want to look at when performing research on your competitor’s sites.
- The keywords that the site is currently ranking for within the search results.Use keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, SemRush, Ahrefs, or UberSuggest. They can provide all the ranked keywords for the target site.Some of these tools allow you to filter by Keyword difficulty (KD) and search volume, enabling you to refine your seeds to low-competition high, volume keywords.For fast-ranking keywords, filter by KD less than six and search volume greater than 100.
- The keywords contained in the top pages’ content currently ranking for your target keywords.Some tools can analyze the content and give you the keyword phrases embedded in the content.SEO Analysis & Website Review chrome extension by WooRank – this analyzes a page and provides a complete SEO profile of the site, including headers and keyword phrases used.SurferSeo is an AI SEO tool that will automatically pull the keyword phrases of the top-ranking sites into their content editor – part of its SEO score is based on phrase match for related keywords.You tell it the seed words you want to target for an article, and it pulls in the keywords used by your top competitors allowing you to target them as you write your blog post.
Look at our article Competitor Keyword Research Strategies for a complete step-by-step guide for targeting your competitors’ keywords.
Analyze Keywords to Find the Best Keywords to target
Once you have this raw list of new keywords, you can start analyzing the keyword data to filter the list down to find the right keywords you want to target.
There are many factors to check and explore to find the best keywords:
- Check Average Monthly Search Volume
- Check Keyword Difficulty
- Check Search Intent
- Check the Average Word Count of Top Ranked Pages
Each one of these steps is described in detail below.
Check Average Monthly Search Volume
Your goal for targeting keywords is to drive traffic to your blog post, so the first thing you want to evaluate is the actual search volumes of the keywords.
At this point, if you have used any keyword research tools, you should already have collected the monthly search volume of each keyword.
For any missed keywords, return to your keyword tools like google keyword planner and get the search volumes.
The goal is to find the actual search volumes and then filter your list to remove all the low-volume keywords (<50), especially those with zero search volume.
No reason to target search phrases that won’t generate any traffic to your site.
Your list will now consist of broad keywords with high search volumes and long tail keywords with moderate search volumes.
Check Keyword Difficulty
Next, you will need to evaluate the difficulty of your keywords to determine if you can compete with other sites already ranking for the term.
What is Keyword Difficulty
Keyword difficulty is simply a metric that indicates how difficult it is to rank for a particular keyword phrase in search engine results.
There are various factors to consider when determining ranking difficulty, including the number of competitors, their authority and relevance, the quality of their content, the strength of their backlinks, and the keyword search volume.
Here are some ways to determine the difficulty of a given keyword:
Use A FREE Keyword Research Tool
There are many free keyword research tools available that provide a ranking difficulty score.
Each uses a different algorithm to generate the score, but they all consider the various factors contributing to the difficulty of ranking for a given keyword.
Here is a list of free keyword tools to give you a difficulty score for a given keyword.
- Ahrefs Keyword Difficulty Checker
- Moz Keyword Difficulty Checker – need to sign up for ten monthly queries.
- UberSuggest Free Keyword Tool – 3 queries a day
Analyze Search Engine Results Pages
Conduct a manual search for the keyword in question and analyze the top-ranking pages. The more authoritative and relevant the top-ranking pages are, the greater the difficulty.
You can approximate the difficulty and generate another metric to add to your analysis: ‘top 10 difficulty’ – this metric will represent how hard it will be to rank in the top 10.
Also, conduct the same search with the search qualifier ‘allintitle:.’ This will give you the number of sites with the exact phrase match in the title.
This is a great metric, ‘allintitle count,’ to see how many sites specifically target that keyword phrase.
Evaluate Your Own Website’s Authority:
Consider your domain authority and the strength of your backlink profile.
Use Google Search Console to get your backlinks, keyword ranking, and Google Analytics for your search traffic.
If your website is relatively new or has a low authority score, you may find ranking for highly competitive keywords more challenging.
Overall, determining ranking difficulty requires careful analysis of various factors.
It is important to consider these factors to choose the right keywords for your SEO strategy and to optimize your chances of ranking well in search results pages.
Check Search Intent
You need to evaluate the search intent of each keyword you plan to target. It is simply the underlying reason or results the searcher wants to attain through their search query.
Types Of Search Intent
Searcher intent is typically classified into these four types:
- Informational: This is used when a user is looking for information on a particular topic – pages ranking for these terms will be ‘how-to’ guides like “How to Follow a Keto Diet” or ‘informational’ guides like “Benefits of a Keto Diet.”
- Navigational: This is used when a user is looking for a specific website or webpage and will usually contain the brand and target page like “Facebook login.”
- Transactional: This is used when a user wants to make a purchase, such as “buy Nike shoes online” or “book a flight to New York.”
- Investigational: This is used when a user is researching a product or service with the intention to buy later, such as “best washing machines” or “compare car insurance quotes.”
Note: Localized searches (i.e., hair salons near me) add another dimension to searcher intent and are keywords you may want to remove from your list.
How to Determine What Search Engines Consider the Search Intent
The great thing is that you don’t have to guess what Google thinks is the searcher intent of a keyword or phrase.
Just look at the top ranking pages for each keyword search query and look at the content type (blog posts, product pages, category pages, etc…), the content format (List type, How-tos, Opinion pieces like reviews, tutorials, etc…), and content angle (a dominant theme of the title, description, and headers).
How Search Intent Affects Keyword Research
Searcher intent has become more critical and can be a key determining factor in ranking highly on a website search engine.
Search engines are now keenly aware of a searcher’s intent from how they phrase their queries and will display pages that match that intent.
This significantly influences how pages of your sites are ranked for a given set of keywords. If your web page is geared to the wrong searcher intent, your site will not rank high in the organic search results.
Since keyword intent is crucial to SEO chances, you need extra care when interpreting the keywords and creating the content to target them.
Check the Average Word Count of Top Ranked Pages
The average word count of the top-ranked individual pages is a metric you might consider as you analyze your keyword ideas.
This will give you an idea of what length of post Google prefers.
It is easy to get the word count, just install the SurferSeo chrome extension, and it will provide the word count along with some other metrics for each of the top 10 search sites on each search result page.
Plan and Create Content Targeting Your Final List
Now that you have your filtered list of keyword ideas, what do you do with it? You need to create a content plan to prioritize keywords to target them.
The process of creating that content plan depends on the scope of the keywords list. Was it for your entire site, a specific topic or category, or a specific article?
Keyword Content Plan for Site
The goal here is to organize the keywords into broader topics and categories.
The broad categories will form the topical clusters you will target within your niche. This will form the overarching plan for content for your site.
Keyword Content Plan for Topical Cluster (Content Silo)
The goal is to take the keywords you generated around a broad topic and organize them into article ideas – grouping like keywords together to target in a single article.
Break the keywords up to create 5 to 15 articles within your cluster.
Keyword Content Strategy for Writing an Article
Once you have narrowed your keywords down to the ones you want to target within an article, you will need to pick one of them as your primary target.
This is where you want to choose a keyword that is highly likely to rank quickly.
You will incorporate the higher competition keywords into your content, but the focus will be optimizing the rankable main keyword.
One of the best ways to do this is to use the SurferSeo content editor.
You paste in your main keyword along with the other keywords you want to target, and it will pull in the keyword profiles of the top pages that rank for those terms and help you know how many times you should include them.
This helps you structure and create your content based on what Google ranks for those keywords.