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Keyword research is one of those SEO facets that’s frequently mentioned but rarely discussed in detail, likely because every SEO has their own processes and nuances to their keyword research process. While we haven’t gone into details about keyword research in our previous SEO webinars and SEO ebooks, it’s time we break the streak! In this post, we will cover everything you need to know about keyword research, including a step-by-step walkthrough to creating your own master keyword research document. Let’s dive in!
The Importance of Keyword Research
At a high level, keyword research is important because it directs you to use words, phrases, and questions throughout your website that your customers are using to find businesses like yours. When you don’t complete keyword research, you run into the risk of using language throughout your site that has low search volume or mismatched intent, which would cause your organic traffic to flop.
When it comes to keyword research, think like your potential customers and you’re sure to find a plethora of queries and topics that you previously weren’t using on your website. Now that you have an understanding of the importance of keyword research, let’s tackle step one of the keyword research process.
Step 1: Create Your Topics
Your first step to creating your master keyword research document is to take account of all of your service and product offerings. For example, HostGator’s list would include shared hosting, WordPress hosting, website builder, VPS hosting, dedicated hosting, and domain names. At this point, keep your list fairly high level as you will discover variations of those keywords, as well as related keywords during your keyword research process.
With my keyword research documents, I usually create a Google Sheet with a different tab for each one of my topics. Within each of those sheets, I create columns for the following (which we will cover in the next sections):
- MSV (Monthly Search Volume)
Get the template! Download your free copy of my template here. Once you open the link, go to File > Make a copy to create your own editable version.
Now that the bones of my document are set, I’m ready to start the actual research process.
Step 2: Start Your Research
When it comes to keyword research there are dozens of both paid and free tools that you can choose from – or mix and match – to complete your keyword research. While some people may think you need paid tools to complete keyword research, you actually can come up with quite a robust list of keywords using free research tools. These are my personal favorites for smaller websites:
Google Keyword Planner: Google’s keyword research tool for paid campaigns can also be used for organic keyword research. Simply create a Google Ads account and navigate to the keyword research tool to perform your research.
Google Autocomplete: When a user searches for any query within Google, Google attempts to help by autocompleting common queries. Take note of these autocompleted queries and add them to your list.
Google’s People Also Ask: Some queries have “People Also Ask” boxes that, like the name suggests, displays other questions that people frequently search for when looking into a topic.
Many of these tools are going to return both broad match and related queries, meaning you will truly see the full spectrum of your topic’s related keywords. SEMrush, Moz, Google Keyword Planner, and other keyword research tools will give you the monthly search volume for your query, but Autocomplete and PAA will not. That’s why I always use the tools for the larger portion of my keyword research and just supplement with Autocomplete and PAA if needed.
Monthly Search Volume
Speaking of Monthly Search Volume, or MSV, let’s discuss its importance. Monthly Search Volume will give you an estimate of how many people are searching for that keyword each month, and while it can be tempting to target only the highest searched queries, keep in mind that the higher the search volume, the more difficult it will be to rank for, as all websites are going to try to rank for those keywords.
Now that’s not to say that you shouldn’t target high MSV queries at all, but you should have a mix of head terms (high MSV keywords) and long-tail keywords (lower search volume queries that are typically longer phrases). This way, you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket!
We now have two of our columns filled out – keyword and MSV – and we should have long lists of all sorts of related keywords, phrases, and questions, both with high and low monthly search volumes. That leaves us with one more column to fill out – Intent.
This is the step that many people forget when putting together their first keyword research documents, although it’s very easy to complete! Search intent is the “why” behind a particular search – why was someone searching for this term. Are they trying to learn something? Are they researching a product? Or are they ready to purchase? For example, with “website domain”, someone could be interested in learning what domains are, while another searcher may be looking to purchase a domain for their new website.
To check the intent behind each keyword, you should manually search (in Incognito Mode) each query on your list and skim through the first page of results. You want to look for the types of pages that are ranking on page one; pages can typically be categorized in the following groupings:
- Transactional Pages: Front-of-site pages with the goal of getting customers to purchase.
- Resource Pages: Blog and other resource pages that educate customers about their products.
- Compilation Pages: Listicles of the top X products or businesses. Typically larger publications put these together.
Take note in your master keyword document of the type of page that’s primarily ranking for that query. This will guide you in determining which keywords you should use on each one of your pages. For example, “domain name search” returns all transactional pages, making it a great keyword to target with our domain page. On the other hand, “keyword research” only brings blogs and other resources, so it’s going to be difficult for your SEO agency to rank on page one for its keyword research service page.
Once the intent column is completely filled out, you’ll be able to narrow down which keywords you plan on using where, and you may even remove keywords from your list completely.
How to Use Your Keyword Research
Once you’ve completed your keyword research, you can use it to optimize your current content, as well as direct new content creation. The important thing to note with keyword research is that the end goal should not be to stuff your website with these queries, but rather use them naturally throughout your pages.
While there is no hard and fast rule, a good rule of thumb is to target no more than three (related) keywords per page, for example, for a domain landing page, we may choose to target domain, domain name, and domain name search as our primary keywords. This methodology behind keyword research implementation will ensure that you not only include those important target keywords, but they will direct the content of the rest of your page to be highly relevant to the primary topic, while including semantic keywords as well. This will result in a well-rounded, optimized page that will rank well for the chosen keywords!