Keyword Research 101 - Basic SEO Guide

Keyword Research 101 - Basic SEO Guide

In this post, I will try to explain all the nuances about keyword research. In my opinion, keyword research is one of three SEO fundamentals: Content, Backlinks and Keyword research. In my experience, if you remove one of these, stuff won’t work SEO-wise.

Also, in this blog, I will focus on the fundamentals of keyword research and mainly for organic search (not paid).

Content:

1. Why keyword research is essential?

2. Where to start?

3. Identify main keyword groups

4. How to find keywords which WILL rank?

5. Structure content

6. Competitors research – what works for me!

 

 

 

1. Why keyword research is essential?

To start with, the main way users discover new content in Google is by typing search queries. This is different from social media, where you discover the best content, based on engagement (shares, likes, comments, views).

Therefore, if your content is not adjusted to a certain search query or keyword, users just won’t find it in Google. No matter how good it is.

In fact, some of the articles on my blogs are of extremely high quality with mind-blowing visuals, content and so on. They were praised by visitors on Facebook and Twitter. But, there is very little Google traffic. Why? Because the article doesn’t fit into any major keyword groups and is more like a piece from a literature book.

In an ideal world, Google should have found a way to push this great content to users, but Google is not perfect.

If your content is not related to a certain keyword with a good number of searches per month – it will have very low traffic from Google.

Therefore, if you want to get some organic traffic from Search engine, always optimize your articles for a specific keyword group.

The more you do SEO, the more you understand, how crucial keyword research is.

Incorrect keyword research can cost you A LOT of money and time.

The worst content strategy you can do is just put some sh*t on the wall and hope it will stick. ๐Ÿ˜€It’s not only useless, but it can also be damaging, as you can drive the wrong kind of traffic (audience) to your site.

2. So, where to start?

Keyword research can be super advanced, with tons of little details and tactics. But, for now, let’s start with basics.

The easiest way to start keyword research is just going to Google and use the autosuggest feature. ๐Ÿ˜€It is free!

Just enter main topics/ideas related to your blog. Google will show you some popular searches without any additional data.

But, also try to be specific to get better results. E.g. in the case with “SEO” search term, I got a few results related to Seoul in Korea ๐Ÿ™‚

You can also see some suggestions from Google at the bottom of the page – in “Searches related to …”

Searches related to

This can give you some additional ideas.

But, what we lack here is more data – such as how many searches per month, competition, trend, maybe cost per click, etc.

Well, there is another free tool – Google Ads. You can create a free account on ads.google.com and use their keyword planner tool.

Note, if you don’t have any active campaigns in Google Ads, your keyword data will be limited.

Next, just enter your seed keyword, adjust the location, language.

Here are your results, with monthly search volume and competition. Again, all of this is for free and this is data from Google (not a third-party app), which you can trust.

If you are a beginner in SEO, Keyword Planner tool from Google ads might be enough.

With it, you can:

  • identify the main keyword ideas;
  • discover their search volume;
  • competition;
  • see results for different locations and languages.

Of course, there are dozens of other much more advanced keyword tools. But, you will need to pay.

Among my favorite keyword tools are Ahrefs, Semrush and keywordtool.io.

This is how keyword research looks like in keywordtool.io – my go-to tool. It is very easy to use and you can easily export keyword data into CSV, Excel or just copy to clipboard.

keywordtool.io

I also really like Ahrefs, as it provides more advanced data – e.g. how many referring domains you need to rank for a specific keyword, searches vs clicks, the whole range of keyword ideas, questions, “also rank for”, “newly discovered”, etc.

Semrush – is a great tool for competitors keyword research. I will go through it a bit later.

 

3. Identify the main keyword groups

There are hundreds and thousands of different keyword ideas, which will originate from your seed keyword.

Do your research.

I have created a handy infographic to better understand the process ๐Ÿ™‚

keyword research 101

Go through hundreds of keyword ideas from your seed keyword, which in my case was “SEO” and limit them to 10-20 main keyword groups – or topics.ย Of course, later you can have many more, hundreds of main keyword groups.

You will see some main topics popping up – e.g. SEO guide, SEO courses, SEO links, E-commerce SEO, etc.

Now you need to organize them in main keyword groups. E.g. separate keyword groups could be:

  • SEO courses (includes e.g. “SEO courses online”, “SEO training online”, “SEO workshops”, etc).
  • Link building (includes “how to build links”, “link building tips”, “get backlinks”, etc)
  • E-commerce SEO (includes “E-commerce SEO”, “SEO for webstores”, “E-commerce SEO guide”, etc).

This way you structure your keyword research in some main areas and it is much easier to create content for these keywords.

Collect 10-30 main keywords in a specific group. The process is quite similar to creating Ad Groups for Google Ads.

I just use Google sheets and create different tabs for each keyword group.

Keyword groups google sheets

4. How to find keywords, which will rank?

You have found your main keyword groups – great.

The problem is – everyone else did the same.ย Therefore, keyword competition will be very high.

Your aim is to find great keywords, but with low competition.

Especially, when you have a new site, with low domain authority, it will very hard to rank for highly competitive keyword phrases.

The main difficulty with keyword research is finding a balance: best possible keywords and your site ability to rank for them.

Ideally, you want to target high-intent keywords – i.e. keywords, which are really close to buyers intent. Something like: “buy new iphone”, “new xbox pricing”, “book Greece vacation”. These keywords bring the best possible traffic and money.

But, the truth is, it is super hard to rank for these, especially in English.

For example, you want to rank for “best project management software”. It is a fantastic, high-intent keyword. If your landing page ranks in top 3 in globally for this keyword, congrats – you make a lot of money. ๐Ÿ’ฐ

But, if you look at SERP below, it is clear that top ranking pages are all super powerful, old domains with a lot of authority. If you just started a project management blog, probably “best project management software” is not the right keyword to start with. It will take you ages and huge link building expenses to get there.

SERP

In my experience, if you start a new blog – it is impossible to rank for any of these top keywords.

So, maybe you will need to try to rank for something like: “project management software for designers”, “project management software types”, “project management software for engineers”.

So, if you type your keyword in some keyword tool, just scroll way down and try to find keywords with low competition.

low competition keyword research

 

The core question in keyword research is how to identify those opportunity keywords?

Your aim is to find great keywords, but with low competition.

Especially, when you have a new site, with low domain authority, it will very hard to rank for highly competitive keyword phrases.

For a start, you can just go with long-tail keywords – very specific niche keywords.

Maybe, there will be 10-100 searches per month, but competition is much lower. And there is a real chance, you can start ranking for these and get at least some traffic.

5. Structure your content

So, now you have all these keyword ideas and groups.

Question (from people new to SEO): should you create a separate piece of content for every keyword?

Answer: NO!

Google will understand that “SEO training course” and “SEO course” and even “SEO online training” are the same things.

If you create separate blogs for an SEO training course, SEO course, and SEO online training – you would just confuse Google.

I would just create a blog/landing page site.com/blog/seo-courses and include all related keywords in the content. And then I would do a link building campaign, trying to grow UR – URL rank – of this page. So, any content you put up on this exact URL will have a higher chance to rank compared to content on a fresh new URL.

So, you need to group all these keywords into groups, based on which you create content.

It is really important to structure your keywords-based content in the right way.

In Google’s eyes: Less high-quality pages > many low-quality pages.

Also, if you have one page with strong UR – URL rank – you won’t need to build up UR for a new page.

For example, you created a long-form blog “Soccer World Cup 2022” with URL mysite.com/world-cup-2022 And there are already a bunch of referring domains to this blog. So, any content you put up on this exact URL will have a higher chance to rank compared to content on a fresh new URL.

Map out the main content you want to create for each keyword group. I’m using either Google Sheets or Miro for that. Each keyword group should have 1-2 main pieces of content and 6-10 secondary (long tail keywords).

 

It can look something like this.

Keyword research

You can also divide high intent keywords (for landing pages) and “blogging keywords” (for blogs).

For high intent keywords, e.g. “link building agency” or “SEO agency” or “SEO audit tool” – you can create a dedicated Landing Page, aimed at high conversion.

If a person searches for “link building agency”, probably he/she just looks for a page with a quick overview of a particular agency and some contact form, but not to an “Ultimate guide to link building agencies”.

Instead, there are keywords, which are better for blogs. “Ultimate guide to backlinks”, “Top SEO KPI’s”, “Top SEO statistics”, etc.

Some possible content structure can look like this. Long form blogs for more competitive keywords and short form articles aimed at long tail niche keywords.

Long tail keywords content structure

In short, that’s how you do your keyword research for Google organic search.

Now, let’s get into more advanced issues.

 

6. Competitors research – what works for me

Very often even long-tail keywords are hard to rank. Because SEO became so competitive…

So, what works for me? Competitors keyword research.

I use Ahrefs. Just enter your competitors URL and go to “Top content” or “Organic keywords”.

In Top Content, you will see top pages, sorted by Organic Search and main ranking keyword.

In Organic keywords, you will top ranking keywords, sorted by traffic and related URL.

Personally, I really like Top Content tab, because you can exactly see topics and URLs. So, basically, just copy titles and make better content. ๐Ÿ˜Š This is your SEO content calendar. And it works! After going through this process, newly created blogs on my site start to rank in Google for designated keywords.

Why does it work? Because, with this approach, you can find super niche and long-tail keywords, which would really hard to find in any other way. These keywords are already proven by other sites and they bring real traffic.

From competitors, you can identify your main seed keywords and then go through some keyword tool and repeat all the process. But, in this case, seed keywords are “golden”.

To sum it up

There are dozens of other keyword research tactics. I just touched the surface in this blog. Competitors keyword research works like a charm right now. More general keywords research, via some keyword tool – will work only with a more powerful domain.

The bottom line is, keyword research is tricky, there is no definitive strategy, everyone is doing keyword digging in his own way. But, if you don’t adjust your content to keywords, it just won’t rank on Google. Even if you feature fantastic content and great domain authority.

Back to you

Which other keyword research hacks do you know? What did I miss? What works for you?