6 SEO Keyword Research Best Practices

Sarah Johnson Laryea

Sarah Johnson Laryea

3rd September 2021

Good keyword research is the foundation of SEO. 

Sadly, without keywords, your website is pretty much invisible on search engines like Google. 

Keyword research is one of the most important tools used to help draw your target audience to your website - as it enables you to understand the terms and language your target customers use when searching for your products, services, or content.

The lack of targeted keyword research can therefore be extremely costly for your business. If no one is searching for what you’re writing about, you won’t get any traffic to your website -  no matter how great your content is. 

You can also look at it this way: if your target customers can’t find you on search engines, then that means they most likely don’t even know you exist - ouch!

Luckily, this guide will give you a deeper understanding of how to use keyword research to improve your SEO and drive organic traffic to your website. However, before we dive into the best practices for SEO keyword research, let’s first look at what keyword research actually is.

What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the process of finding industry-specific terms and phrases that users type into search engines when searching for products, services or content. 

The main purpose of performing keyword research is to identify the words your target customers are using and the specific questions they are asking. Keyword research also helps you to identify the following:

  • How competitive a specific term or phrase is.
  • How much traffic you’ll generate through a specific keyword.
  • How difficult it is to rank (on the first page) for those keywords.

Types of Keywords

There are different types of keywords that you can focus on to help attract the right people to your website or blog. Below are the four common types of keywords that are used.

Short-tail keywords

As the name suggests, these types of keywords or search terms are extremely short as they are made up of no more than two to three keywords. Short-tail keywords are also known as head keywords or broad keywords, mainly because they have a huge amount of search volume. In fact, the shorter the keyword, the broader the term is - and the bigger the reach. However, short-tail keywords are highly competitive and ranking for them can be extremely difficult.

An example of a short-tail keyword: running shoes

Long-tail keywords

On the other hand, long-tail keywords are longer and more specific keywords that usually have a lower search volume but are high in variation. However, this does not make them less important than head keywords. In fact, because long-tail keywords are more specific, it’s not only easier to rank for them but you’re also more likely to reach and attract the right audience. 

An example of a long-tail keyword: running shoes for flat feet

So if you’re a business that sells or creates running shoes specifically for people with flat feet, you’ll most likely rank much better for this long-tail keyword than for ‘running shoes'.

Product-defining keywords

Product-defining keywords are even more specific than long-tail keywords. Searchers who type product-defining keywords into search engines know exactly what product or service they are looking for. Usually, when searchers go for product-defining keywords they are already close to purchasing the product. However, they might need a little bit more product information to make their final decision.

An example of a product-defining keyword: black Nike running shoes women

Unlike the head keyword ‘running shoes’, which is very broad, in this case, you know exactly who those running shoes are for (women), the colour (black) and the brand (Nike) the searcher is looking for. 

Geo-targeted keywords

These types of keywords are key for ranking in your local area. Geo-targeted keywords are especially useful for smaller local businesses as these keywords are not only great for driving traffic to your website, but they can also help to drive traffic to your store. When looking for geo-targeted search terms, don’t just focus on your own town or city. You can expand your territory by including neighbouring areas as well. 

An example of a geo-targeted keyword: running shoes UK or even more specific, running shoes [town/city].

 

So now that we know what keyword research is and the types of keywords to focus on, let’s dive into the best practices for SEO keyword research.

Identify search volumes and ranking difficulty

When you first get started with SEO, it’s important to determine the right keywords to use, the search volumes of those keywords and the ranking difficulty. You can start by making a list of the categories or topics that are most relevant to your business. For example, if you have an e-commerce baby store, you’ll need to do keyword research around the products you’re selling such as baby pushchairs, prams, car seats etc. If you are a service-based business, you’ll need to conduct keyword research around the services you’re offering.

Use those terms you have identified to do bulk keyword research. This is all about gathering as many keywords as you can, including variations and combinations of different keywords and phrases. SEO keyword tools such as the Google Keyword Planner or Semrush are great to use for this step.

Once you have generated your list, you’ll need to refine it by identifying or highlighting keywords with low competition or difficulty and high search volume.

Find longtail keywords

As mentioned earlier, longtail keywords are more specific and therefore much easier to rank for. Finding longtail keywords or keyword questions is extremely useful for your content marketing strategy as it allows you to create content around specific queries your potential customers may have.

Using the e-commerce baby store example, here are a few examples of longtail keywords:

  • How to use a baby pushchair
  • Best baby pushchairs 2021
  • When can baby sit up in a pushchair?
  • Parent-facing vs forward-facing pushchairs

Identify competitor keywords

When it comes to keyword research and SEO page content, it’s extremely beneficial to find out for what keywords and for which pages your competitors are ranking. Not necessarily with the goal to outrank them, but to identify the keyword gaps (keywords they are using and you are missing out on) and what they are good or not so good at.

Competitor keyword research can help strengthen your content marketing strategy as your competitors might be writing about topics that you should be covering too.

Pay attention to ‘people also ask’

Another best SEO practice and a great way to not only come up with ideas for keywords but also find out what people are searching for, is ‘people also ask’ on Google. Paying attention to the keywords and phrases used within people also ask and creating content around the keywords that are relevant for your business can also help to increase your rankings and potentially get your site showing in featured snippets. 

Use keywords in your blog and page content

Now that you have come up with keyword ideas and have identified the best ones to use, it’s time to start creating content. Whether you’re writing product pages, blog articles or any sort of landing page, make sure that you’re using and implementing your list of keywords.

However, don’t just stuff a page with a bunch of keywords thinking that by doing that Google will rank your page. In fact, Google can actually detect keyword stuffing, which is the practice of loading a page with many keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site's ranking.

Yes, we want your page to rank and gain lots of traffic, but it’s important to keep in mind that Google values genuine, quality and well-written content that will bring value to the searcher.

Incorporate keywords into your page titles

This one seems pretty obvious, but can easily be missed. Your page title is an important element of an optimised SEO page. Once you have identified the right short and long-tail keywords and phrases to use, make sure you are implementing them on your page titles for all your content.

So don’t just focus on having the right keywords in the body of your product or blog page. Be intentional about having the right and relevant keywords on your page titles - also known as your title tags - too. 

It is best practice to stay under 70 characters, which is the optimal length of a title that appears in SERPs (search engine result pages).

Getting started with SEO

Getting started with SEO can feel quite overwhelming, however, it doesn’t have to be. Following these best practices will give you a great head start and get your site ranking in no time. Need some extra support while you’re at it? We are here to help - get in touch today!

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