Keyword Research Tips for SEO and Content Marketing
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Keyword research is a foundational aspect of SEO and content marketing. In most cases, keywords create the bridge that links your content, website, product listings, and other online assets to users.
Conducting keyword research is a never-ending task, as trends come and go by the month. In the purest form, the process of keyword research involves five key tasks:
- Learning what terms and phrases people are entering into the search bar
- Understanding why people are making those search queries.
- Gauging the content that shows up on the search engine results pages (SERPs) for those queries.
- Optimizing content with keywords that align with findings in the SERPs.
- Continuously updating your content around new keyword trends.
Obviously, this process is much easier said than done.
Reaping the fruits of your labor requires detailed keyword analysis, innovative planning, exceptional content creation, vigilant monitoring, and strong coordination. Oftentimes, individual specialists are brought in to manage and guide each of these tasks.
In this post, we want to provide some of the industry’s top keyword research tips, as well as share some of our proven tactics here at Foxxr Digital Marketing. Let’s get started!
Importance of Keyword Research
Studies have found that more than 90 percent of online experiences begin with a search engine. This figure alone solidifies the importance of keyword research in content marketing – but there are many, many benefits to keeping close eyes on keyword trends – as well as having a professional guide you through the process.
We’ve had clients come to us saying, “we’ve been creating content for our website, but we’re just not showing up on top of Google searches!”
All too often, they have not done anything in the way of keyword research. Creating content without keyword research is like fishing without bait.
The harsh reality is that the “build it and they will come” mentality will almost always result in your web content acting as a personal diary. Plain and simple, you need solid keyword research before you begin creating any piece of written content.
Keyword research is the data-backed tactic for learning what people are searching for, as opposed to what we think they are searching for. In SEO and content marketing, you can never make assumptions about English keyword demand. This can easily result in creating content about a subject that no one is researching – which is a waste of time.
Many website owners make that mistake, and it’s likely a big part of the reason why 90.63% of pages get no traffic from Google, according to an Ahrefs study.
Here’s how it works, in a nutshell:
- You research the top keywords and phrases that people are searching for pertaining to your business, product, service, etc.
- You incorporate these keywords naturally into your content.
- Search engine bots crawl the content and identify the keywords within it.
- Using their famously secretive algorithms, the search engines place your content on the Google SERPs for those keywords.
- Ideally, your content will show up on the SERPs (get ranked) when a user enters one of those keywords into the search bar.
Sounds pretty easy, right?
A HubSpot study once found that 75% of Google searches never go past page one of the SERPs. That said, simply getting your content to rank isn’t difficult. Getting to rank on page one of the SERPs (and generate sizable traffic) is the everlasting challenge in SEO and content marketing.
Keyword Research Helps You Answer Four Critical Questions
The insights of keyword research go much deeper than just monthly search volumes and demand for certain terms. When you are conducting keyword research for content marketing, there are many, many data points that come into play as you map out a piece of content.
When the keyword research phase is over, you should walk away with data-driven answers to these four questions:
- How hard will it be to rank a piece of content on the SERPs for this keyword?
- How much traffic am I likely to get if I rank for this keyword?
- What kind of content should I create to rank for this keyword?
- Are people searching for this keyword likely to become my customers?
This is the difference between creating content that reels in valuable website traffic – as opposed to content that just sits on your site gathering dust.
Sure, you can go on freelancer sites and find someone to slap a piece of content together for $20 or less. But that content more than likely does not come with keyword research, analysis, and planning.
To put it bluntly, having answers to the four questions is why professionals charge hundreds of dollars to create a blog post or piece of web content.
Four Types of Search Intent Keywords Foxxr Searches For
Keywords are not all created equally in the powerful eyes of Google. Each term or phrase holds different weight in terms of search volume, difficulty, and cost-per-click – but we’ll get to that later.
When looking at the big picture, all keywords can be grouped into four major categories based on their search intent. “Search intent” is a buzzword you’ll run into a lot in SEO.
Search intent refers to what people are looking to accomplish when they enter a keyword or phrase into the search bar. Let’s discuss the major types of intent when dealing with search engines – as well as some tips to differentiate.
Informational Intent Keywords
Informational intent is when people are simply looking for advice on the web – and you need to guide them there with proper keywords. Perhaps they are looking for the answer to a specific question, general knowledge on a topic, a step-by-step guide, etc. Searches with informational intent usually start with:
- How do/does…
- What is/are…
- Benefits of…
- Ways to…
- Guide to…
- How to…
- Tips for
For example, if someone searches the phrase “tips for saving energy at home”, their intent is finding some good tidbits and tricks to bring down their utility bill. So, say you’re an HVAC company looking to produce a blog post on this subject. The next steps would be:
- Conduct keyword research around this phrase.
- Understand the content that’s currently ranking for this keyword phrase.
- Answer our four foundational questions.
- Create informational content that’s better than what’s currently ranking.
This is typically the type of search intent that blog posts work to satisfy. Now, informational content creation is where a lot of businesses go wrong. It’s natural to want to include your service offerings or pricing options in a piece of branded content. However, this isn’t always the best approach.
General tips: When users have informational intent, they are not looking for aggressive sales tactics or flashy deals; they are simply looking to learn something. Informational posts are about building trust and establishing your industry knowledge, not pushing sales. If your content or guide comes off as overly promotional, you’ll struggle to gain consumer trust.
When you create content around informational intent, you need to show users:
- Why you are an expert on the topic.
- Subliminally convince them that they need your product/service.
- Make them believe you are the best option to fulfill their need.
- Provide a way to get in touch with you.
Informational keywords are best in blog posts, guides, how-to articles, etc.
Navigational Intent Keywords
Navigational intent keywords are a bit more focused than informational keywords. This is when a searcher knows where they want to go and are looking for something specific. This can be a product, brand, service, or website – like Facebook, Amazon, YouTube, eBay, etc.
Fun fact: “Facebook” and “YouTube” are the two top searches on Google.
Truth be told, targeting navigational queries with your keyword research isn’t going to bring in huge returns at first – unless you already own a big site or webpage that people are directly searching for. This is because navigational intent is crystal clear – as opposed to informational intent, where the user is looking for advice.
So, what do you do with navigational keywords?
This depends on what you offer.
If you are a retailer selling products or services from a well-known brand, you can certainly target these types of terms in your keyword research. For example, say you run a dental practice and offer Invisalign treatment.
Your keyword research should certainly involve terms related to “Invisalign”, which may include:
- Invisalign treatment
- Invisalign treatment time
- Invisalign cost
- Invisalign after treatment
One of the crucial tips in early SEO is you want to be sure you are building a strong digital presence around your own brand name and website.
To reiterate, targeting your brand name with navigational keywords probably won’t be super fruitful at first, but it’s still very important. This may sound like a no-brainer, but we see a surprising number of businesses overlook this part of the journey.
Commercial Intent Keywords
Commercial intent within the keyword universe refers to when users know what they want, but haven’t quite made up their mind about buying. They are looking for more information to determine which solution is the absolute best for them. This is where you have an opportunity to guide them to their purchase.
Commercial intent involves keywords and keyword phrases like:
- Best protein powder
- Top Italian restaurants in Buffalo
- Plumbers in Las Vegas
- New Samsung smartphone reviews
- Surface versus iPad comparison
- Reviews of [Brand Name]
Depending on the product/service you offer, the commercial terms and phrases you’ll need to cover in your keyword research might need to be at a local level.
For instance, if you are a towing company in San Diego, you would need to cover top keywords like:
- San Diego towing
- Towing service San Diego
- Cheap towing San Diego
- Towing companies San Diego
- Quality towing San Diego
- Best towing company in San Diego
- [Your Brand Name] Reviews
The goals of commercial intent keywords echo that of informational keywords, they are to:
- Show users who you are
- Why you are the top choice
- How to get in contact
The difference is people are more ready to buy – they just need that extra push in the right direction. Commercial keywords are usually found on webpages, service pages, sometimes in blogs, and so on.
Transactional Intent Keywords
Transactional intent is when a user knows exactly what they want and are ready to buy. The goal of keyword research here is to put your website or webpage in front of their eyes and grab that transaction.
Transactional intent keywords typically include words/phrases like:
- Coupons for…
- Deals on…
- Where to buy…
- Where to buy…
Transactional intent keywords are commonly used on product pages, service pages, or any other page in which the end goal is for the user to buy something.
Types of Keywords in SEO & Tips for Finding Them
We’ve talked about the different types of search intent. Now, we want to get a little more objective in discussing the different types of terms and keyword phrases you’ll come across in keyword research.
Essentially, these terms/phrases will be categorized based on their search volumes on Google. Let’s discuss, shall we?
Long-tail keywords are described as search terms with low search volumes. They are usually phrases – containing three or more words – and tend to be highly specific. However, this is not always the case with long-tail keywords.
While ranking your content for long-tail keywords probably won’t reel in gobs of traffic, the traffic you do pull in is likely going to be extremely focused – and therefore easier to convert. Again, this is a generalization.
Long-tail keywords are relatively easy to rank for and usually result in highly targeted website traffic. In other words, it’s like fishing for a certain type of fish with a very specific bait – as opposed to casting a massive net and hoping you catch that certain type of fish.
Now, you might be thinking that pursuing keywords with low search volumes is a waste of time. That’s simply not true. According to Ahref’s US database of 1.9 BILLION keywords, more than 92% of search terms and phrases have monthly search volumes of ten hits or less.
This is why prioritizing these phrases is one of the greatest keyword research tips we can give.
Finding these long-tail keywords is pretty simple – and there are numerous ways to do so.
For example, let’s start by entering the broad keyword “hardwood floors” into Google:
You’ll see that the Google autocomplete feature is full of related long-tail keywords you can use in your SEO and content marketing strategy.
To get a bit deeper into the analysis of long-tail keywords, we use Ahrefs at Foxxr Digital Marketing.
We’ll start with a “seed keyword”.
A “seed” keyword is essentially a guide or starting point – and usually super broad. It could be a term as simple as “lawnmowers” or “shoes”.
With the seed keyword, we will dive deeper with the volume filter to find related long-tail keywords (no less than three words) with search volumes considered to be low in your industry. More on this later.
Short tail keywords
Short tail keywords are extremely broad keywords – usually consisting of only one or two words.
Because the length of these top-level keywords is so small, they usually have large search volumes attached to them. While these types of keywords might have massive search volumes, they are typically less specific than search terms with more words.
So, what is the significance of short-tail keywords in keyword research?
Short tail keywords are the overarching terms that set the precedent and guide your keyword research efforts. These are usually the seed/money keywords you start with and branch off of.
For example, “personal injury” or “civil rights” are prime examples of short-tail keywords. While respective lawyers certainly want to be ranked for these terms, it will take a massive, massive effort and a lot of time to accomplish this.
That said, the best approach is to take these short-tail keywords and research related terms and phrases that are a) more specific, and b) have lower search volumes and less competition. Basically, short tail keywords are jumping-off points for keyword research, not immediate ranking goals.
On a side note: There is no such thing as a guarantee when it comes to ranking for keywords. If any SEO or content marketing agency tells you they will get your website ranked highly for short-tail keywords with massive search volumes (like “personal injury” or “civil rights”), run for the hills. SEO agencies do not control search engine algorithms. No one, we mean NO ONE can promise you rankings – especially for super broad keywords. SEO agencies can conduct the research and guide you to better rankings, but they cannot make promises of rankings.
Medium Tail Keywords
As the name implies, medium tail keywords are a middle ground between long tail and short tail keywords. These are going to be terms and phrases that have moderate search volumes and ranking difficulties – yet aren’t super broad or specific.
Let’s go back to the “civil rights” example.
Using Ahrefs, this is the data we get for this short tail keyword in Google:
Now, if we dive a little deeper, let’s see what we’re working with for the keyword “civil rights attorney”:
You’ll notice the keyword difficulty is rated as “medium” – and the search volume is significantly smaller. That said, this “medium” tail keyword is definitely one we’d want to pursue.
Now, generally speaking (again), ranking for medium tail keywords is not exactly a walk in the park, but it’s very possible to do with a good SEO strategy.
In a very small nutshell, keyword research should ideally start with short tail keyword identification, then branch off into long-tail keywords with goals to eventually rank for medium tail keywords – and maybe those short tail keywords, someday.
So without further ado, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of how Foxxr conducts keyword research for clients.
How Does Foxxr Perform a Keyword Research and Competitor Analysis?
Keyword research is the foundation of our SEO and content efforts. It is a crucial component of how we form our client’s marketing direction, goals, and KPIs. For this reason, we take a highly comprehensive approach and do not leave any stones unturned.
Here’s a guide to what we do.
Identify Seed/Money Keywords
Before we can do any sort of keyword research, SEO, or content marketing, we need a strong foundational knowledge of our clients. During the onboarding phase, we will gather every single piece of data we can about the client’s business, industry, strengths, weaknesses, goals, challenges, opportunities, and so on.
The information we gather during client onboarding lays the bricks for our campaign and helps to ensure our decision-making process is effective. Now, some clients come to us with an understanding of their “money” keywords. These terms and phrases need to be listed out and organized in this Foxxr workbook:
Website Analysis: Find Seed Keywords
The next step in the process is to get a feel for what we’re currently working with in terms of keywords. Chances are, clients are already ranking for some keywords – even if they’ve never done anything related to SEO in the past.
Regardless of the client’s current keyword standing, the goal of this part of the process is to examine the client’s business and service offerings to pinpoint our list of seed keywords.
From here, our SEO analysts will plug the website into the Ahrefs Site Explorer to check for high search volume keywords – both organic and for paid ads. Then, we get a little more in-depth with the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer tool to “niche down”. This involves:
- Taking a broad keyword (short tail or medium tail) and diving deeper until we uncover a good, attainable opportunity.
- Using the “Words” filter in Ahrefs Keyword Explorer to narrow down the list to generate keyword phrases comprised of three to four words.
- Creating a list of these keywords.
This part of the process is only the tip of the spear for our keyword research.
Generate Keyword Ideas Using Ahrefs Keyword Explorer
This is where we really get down and dirty in the keyword research. At this point in the process, we have a comprehensive list of the client’s seed/money keywords. In other words, we have our jumping-off points and general tips; now is when we take the deep dive.
Let’s discuss the process.
Run the Seed/Money Keywords Through Ahrefs Keyword Explorer
Our first order of business is to take each of the seed/money terms found during the website analysis and run them through the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer tool.
We’ll build out a list for these terms using Filters. This is how we start the long journey to find all the long tail and medium tail keywords to pursue with our SEO and content efforts.
From here, we’ll use the “Phrase Match” report to get a glimpse of all the phrases that match the term we enter into the Keyword Explorer.
The phrases we find here will ideally populate our list of long-tail and medium tail keywords.
To refine things a little further, we’ll select the “Having Same Terms” report. This ensures that our seed/money keyword is included in the phrases we discover.
Now, as we said before, we don’t want to leave any stone unturned during our keyword research. We’ll be sure to look through the other report types in Ahrefs for new tips, including, “Also rank for”, “Search suggestions”, “Newly Discovered”, etc. under the “Keyword ideas” criteria list.
This is to make sure we’re looking into ALL the keyword opportunities in Google and beyond.
Look into Questions
Research has found that almost 10% of search queries are phrased as questions. With the rise of voice search, it’s likely this number will continue to go up. Ahref’s Keyword Explorer has a fantastic Questions tool that shows these longer queries and their search volume.
Keep in mind, content marketing – and ranking for informative keywords – is all about answering questions. Before a piece of content is created, you need a clear idea of the question(s) it is addressing.
Now, most questions aren’t going to have massive search volumes. But having an understanding of what people are asking within the client’s industry is vital to content development efforts down the road.
Populate/Organize the List
- Now it’s time to finalize our keyword research list. This list is the nucleus of our SEO and content marketing plans. We’re not just going to toss all these terms in a list with no rhyme or reason – we need to organize them.
- Using the Filters tool, we’ll organize the keyword list by Keyword Difficulty, Search Volume, and Clicks. As the list is created, we’ll triple check to make sure each entry matches the client’s services and products.
- Export the list.
Generate Keyword Ideas Using Google Search Console
With our fresh list of keywords from the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, we now want to combine it with the client’s Google Search Console data.
When we examine the client’s search console data, we’ll be looking at all the terms and phrases that are generating organic clicks and impressions on the SERPs. To reiterate, most clients have at least a few terms their site is ranking for – even if they’ve never done anything for SEO.
Once we generate a list of these terms and phrases from Google Search Console, we’ll import them into the trusty Ahrefs Keyword Explorer and examine their search metrics – Keyword Difficulty, Search Volume, Clicks, etc.
Our analysts will take these findings and add the terms and phrases relevant to the client’s product/service to the master keyword list.
Run Competitor Domains to Examine Their Rankings
Now that we’ve created a list of keywords from an internal perspective, we need to look at the client’s competitors. As part of our client intake process, we’ll need to get some information regarding who the main competitors are – listed in the workbook:
Using the Bright Local “Search Results Checker” tool, we’ll take a look at the client’s competitors to examine their standing on the SERPs.
To continue our “leave no stone unturned” rule, we’ll cross-check the list of competitors the client gave us to ensure we’re not missing anything. To do this, we plug the client’s website into the Ahrefs Site Explorer and go to the “Competing Domains” report.
From here, we’ll run the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer report using our client’s seed/money keywords, select the “SERP overview” section, and see which of the client’s competitors are ranking for them.
Using this data, we’ll finalize a list of the client’s competitors.
Our experts will then go back to the Ahrefs Site Explorer and look through the “Organic keywords 2.0” report to see all the terms the competitors are ranking for. From here, we’ll export the list and filter the keywords by “Volume”.
Now we’ll get into the content side of our keyword research process.
This is where we’ll run the Content Gap tool to discover keywords/content for which the client’s competitors are ranking for, but the client is not. We’ll make a solid list of these keywords to be addressed during content creation efforts.
With our list of competitor websites, we’ll circle back to the Ahrefs Site Explorer again and run the “Top Pages” report for each one. This report shows us the client’s competitors’ most popular pages based on monthly Google search traffic and their “Top Keyword” – of which is sending them the most organic traffic.
We’ll create a list of these pages to be used later on in the content marketing process.
Perform Keyword Research Using Google Keyword Planner
For the last step in our keyword research phase, we’re going to look at the Google Keyword Planner – Google’s keyword research tool.
Why do we use more than one tool for keyword research?
As much as we love the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, the reality is that the top keyword research tools draw on a number of different data sources. The results we see on one may be different than that of another. We’ve concluded that Ahrefs Keyword Explorer provides the best results. However, we like to diversify our insights by going straight to the source with the Google keyword tool.
As usual, we’ll start with the client’s seed/money keywords and enter them into the Google Keyword Planner. The tool will show us a long list of relevant keyword ideas and correlating data.
Our experts will then follow the same process as we did on Ahrefs to create the list of keywords from the Planner which have healthy search volumes.
Combine All Keywords
Now it’s time to finalize our exhaustive list of keywords – ranging from short tail seed/money keywords to medium and long-tail keywords.
Taking our two lists from Ahrefs Keyword Explorer and the Google Keyword Planner, we will compile our master list of keywords that will be used throughout the SEO and content marketing campaigns.
In this master list, we will add a filter so we are able to search the top keywords by Search Volume.
Keyword Grouping (Primary, Secondary and Supporting Keywords)
The last step in our keyword research process is the culmination of our efforts. We’ve spent lots of time and energy discover what keywords we’ll use for our client; now we need to figure out how we’ll use them.
The goal of grouping keywords is to determine:
- The keywords that are most important to our client.
- Secondary keywords.
- The keywords that should be used to support primary and secondary keywords.
- How we’ll incorporate keywords into the bigger SEO and content marketing plan.
At this point, we have our master list of keywords put together – all pulled from the Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, the Google autosuggest feature, “People Also Ask”, Questions, etc.
From here, we’ll run the client’s domain through the Ahrefs Site Explorer once more to see the Organic Keywords 2.0 report. We’ll use the new and improved filter for Position, CPC (minimum $1), and Search Volume (minimum 100/m)
The next step will be to combine all this information with our master keyword list in Ahrefs. We’ll then update the keywords in the rank tracker and add tags to the Ahrefs Tracker for Keyword Grouping.
Now it’s time to set up our primary, secondary, and supporting keywords.
- Primary keywords will be the top, overarching ones we are working to ultimately rank for. For instance, this might be “Florida civil rights”, “civil rights attorney” or “civil rights lawyer”.
- Secondary keywords will be the ones that are more attainable, specific, and funnel into the primary keywords. These might include “civil rights lawyer in Tampa” or “civil rights attorney in Pasco County”.
- Supporting keywords will be the ones that are relevant to the primary and secondary keywords, but easier to obtain rankings for. These work to help search engine bots get a better understanding of what the content is about – and how to rank it appropriately. These might be “civil rights attorney fees”, how to find a civil rights attorney, etc.
Keyword grouping will depend on the client’s industry, goals, and opportunities. All the relevant keywords will be grouped/organized in a workbook like so:
Voila! Our keyword research is complete! Now it’s time to get the ball rolling on the SEO and content marketing plans!
Let’s Get Down to Business!
Once the keyword research is completed, the real legwork in SEO and content marketing begins. These keywords are the foundation of our content inspiration, goals, and opportunities to get our clients more visibility on the web.
To reiterate, keyword research never really ends.
Keyword research tips, trends in the search engines, and the keyword universe change by the month. Some terms and phrases may give you huge returns one month, then be completely obsolete the next. For this reason, it’s vital that SEO agencies take the time to make sure keyword master lists are continuously updated with fresh data – and are wisely incorporated into the SEO and content marketing plan.
If you’re ready to start pulling in more web traffic (and customers) through the all-powerful search engines, get in touch with the professional marketing team at Foxxr Digital Marketing today. We’re standing by to take your online presence to the next level!