Keyword research for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is the process of finding popular search terms for a website. It’s a pull marketing strategy. Once a niche keyword is found, it’s expanded upon to find similar keywords. The process is usually aided by keyword suggestion tools, which I’m happy to detail. Search engines like Google (to be honest, I don’t really give a shit about the others) provide their own keyword suggestion tools (i.e. Keyword Planner), which also include the number of searches made for each of those keywords.
The objective of keyword research is to generate, with good precision and recall, a large number of terms that are highly relevant yet non obvious to the given input keyword. It is good practice to pick keywords that have little competition and a high amount of searches. Little competition will make it easier to achieve higher rank in search engines and high amount of searches will guarantee that the keyword attracts web traffic. The downside of this practice is that usually keywords that have very little competition get less searches while those who get multiple searches per month are very difficult to rank for.
Good keywords are related to the theme of the website. The Google almighty algorithm has the right to ban or exclude from search results, websites whose content is not relevant to the keyword. We have seen the weight Google can throw around with recent changes i.e. Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird, there was another major change rolled out a fortnight ago with more expected to follow.
The focus here is to get the balance between relevancy, volume and authority. The research in this post is focused on SEO but very valuable for SEM, in the instance of SEO, what we do here will determine the content marketing and landing page strategy for TGC.
Step one: Google Keyword Planner tool
For TGC I have started using the Google Keyword Planner Tool to find out what is being searched and how often (keep in mind the keyword planner tool is built to support PPC not SEO). As noted previously, casting the right sized net is fundamental because high search volumes are great, but on occasions low search volumes can be more relevant. (The strategy will often depend on what a customers visit or conversion is worth to you)
Using Google’s FREE Keyword Planner, I like to start by casting a wide net. In this business venture, TGC is in the ‘gift occasion’ market of connecting gift givers and gift receivers. The gift occasion marketplace includes everything from birthdays, weddings, christenings, anniversaries, graduations, mother’s day, baby showers, leaving parties and the list goes on, and on. I would keep all of these sub categories of gift occasions in their own keyword buckets. As your keyword research progresses, you can prioritise the buckets and the keywords contained in each bucket.
Hit up the keyword planner tool by opening a Google AdWords account. (You won’t have to spend money to use the tool)
Now to start with ‘search for new keyword and ad group ideas’ because that is exactly what we are doing, looking for a foundation of ads and ad group ideas.
I have deliberately selected a very broad phrase to start with, ‘wedding gift registry’, as this first bucket is going to be related to wedding gift occasions. You could even start with the broadest term or phrase such as ‘wedding’ but I think we are going to end up in the same place with the suggestions that the tool producers. I have kept all other fields except for location at their default. (We are still undecided of how quickly we want to scale geographic targeting with TGC from launch.)
There are two primary tabs, ‘Ad group ideas’ combine keywords into contextually related groups, which help provide concepts to consider in your keyword research. ‘Keyword ideas’ is a listing of relevant keywords (average monthly searches, competition and suggested bid). It is easy to generate keyword ideas but it’s hard to determine the organic listings for these keywords, this is essential for page-one SERP, I will get to this later.
Because I’m working in keyword buckets, mainly because it is easier to manage and a measure a content marketing and PPC strategy, I will add keyword ideas to the plan (not ad group ideas). In this instance I am creating a bucket related to wedding gifts. ‘Wedding dresses is searched over 60 000 times a month in Australia and while it would be awesome to rank on page one for this keyword, it’s going to be impossible with our new site and lack of DA. In addition to this, while it is a related term to ‘weddings’ and the traffic would be awesome for potential conversion, an innovative gift occasion portal is not what the user is seeking when searching ‘wedding dresses.’ I’m not saying don’t target popular ‘related’ terms, I just don’t think its worth the fight from the outset. These can be terms that you fight for with PPC at the get-go, not SEO.
Instead of adding multiple ad groups in this instance, I have created one group with 84 keywords that are more closely related to the online service TGC offers, or in other words, what is MOST RELEVANT!
At this stage I have included keywords with low volume, I will assess at what level of search volume I decide to omit certain keywords as we get closer to creating a content plan.
Now simply download the bucket of keywords to CSV and cut it up how you see fit. i.e:
So this is just one bucket and it’s only the start of what we need to do with this bucket. The next step is keyword analysis and competitive keyword analysis.
Step two; keyword analysis focused on the competition
TGC hasn’t had a line of front-end code code written yet (excluding MVP site). So to ensure I build for high DA (Domain Authority), I will look at keyword research with volume, competition and relevance in mind. For a start-up, this is a great process as it’s a crucial ingredient to helping you understand your audience’s behaviour and consequently your strategic direction, particularly related to content marketing. While building for your own DA, it’s important to detail your competition and their associated DA.
An example of metrics to consider for DA:
- Total backlinks to competitors (or your own) site
- Unique referring linking domains
- Moz Domain Authority
- Moz Page Authority
- SEMrush KW Domain
- Link Velocity Trend (LVT)
- Domain Age
- EDU backlinks
- GOV backlinks
- Facebook Shares
- FB Likes
So the objective is to discover vulnerabilities in the top search results and use this opportunity to rank with your keywords.
A recommended tool to attain key metrics is the CKA (Competitive Keyword Analyzer) tool in the LinkResearchTools. This tool falls under their “superhero” plan and will cost you about $900.00 a month (you get many other tools that go beyond keyword analysis). If the tool is too expensive for your project then just skip this section. There are numerous tools available, so simply use what you can afford. Site content could be the most fundamental factor in long-term business sustainability, so time and money will need to be spent according to you budget availability, long term plan and ROI.
The (CKA) compares the top keywords in your niche and provides you with an extensive pre-analysis that helps you find the most profitable keywords. The factors for a well-placed keyword vary on the selected search engine and language, so the relevant data must be up to date. The CKA also delivers up to 55 metrics, everything you need for a comprehensive analysis of your segment. The unique graphical interface allows you to identify potential weaknesses of your competitors and supports your research on irregularities and leaks. The goal with this tool is to explore your niche and determine if your site has enough potential to rank for a particular keyword.
As my site is not live, I will use the CKA tool to purely assess the competition, as I need to know what I am up against and how I intend to compete.
So as far as my keyword bucket goes, I go through the bucket and paste the keywords into the competitive analyser tool as illustrated above, I have chosen the keywords that deliver >1000 visitors in Australia per month. The information in this report (and additional generated, sorted or filtered data) will become my benchmark for competitive analysis. I will initially look for quick wins by the actual number of “wins”, a specifically developed metric that gives information about the overall score of a domain. It’s mainly about numeric values and counting all the top metrics such as the CEMPER Power™, PageRank™, the number of backlinks, the Alexa Rank and many more.
An example that shows you a keyword that I wouldn’t attempt to compete for would be “online registry”, every single top ten organic search result is on a .gov domain.
In addition to being on a .gov domain, each ranking domain is over 15 years old. I won’t be budging any of these URL’s off the charts, so I won’t even attempt to compete. I will run a PPC campaign with good ad copy against this keyword instead.
Some immediate wins that I do see based on low quality ‘win’ scores are:
The keywords that jump out are associated to ‘wishing well’ type ‘gift occasion’ phrases. Bingo! Wishing well gift occasions (and related keywords) is the low hanging fruit that is going to get me the most amount of organic traffic in the shortest period of time. I am onto something here and have found gaps in the market to exploit.
Step three; now lets get an even closer look at who is competing for relevant keywords.
As indicated in step two, its hard to determine the organic listing and page rank for the search results, so what I do next is jump into a whizz-bang awesome tool called SECockpit. At about $100.00 per month, SE cockpit automates so much time previously spent on going through the process to generate valuable keywords with high page rank. SECockpit will gather the competitive analysis data and also provide additional keyword suggestions. The results will determine if the keyword is worth targeting. A great addition, or substitute, if the Link Research Tool in the above step is too costly.
You simply add keywords from your bucket to get the above results. If you click on any of the keywords in the list you will get a page with a more in-depth analysis of the sites ranking for; keyword, displaying Mozrank, page authority, domain authority, juice links, total links, Facebook likes / shares, tweets, Google +1’s.
Cut up the columns as you see fit, there are lots of options. Make notes of keyword suggestions for additional buckets.
So what is the keyword opportunity here?
Things you should consider are root domains, as mentioned in step two there are some domains that are improbable to compete against like .edu, .gov and .org. Other things to consider are DA and Mozrank, if the competition is too good, sometimes the fight may not be worth picking, not at this time anyway.
The competition metrics automatically highlighted in green are ready for a fight. The orange indicates that it’s not going to be easy, but in the research conducted far, its our best opportunity for website conversion with natural search, as they are a flagged as a “possibility.” Reciprocal links with other sites of substantial DA are often the answer to beat the orange shaded metrics with your own results. I think it’s cool to target some low volume keywords with a low barrier to entry to gain some quick wins.
Apart from Larry Page, Matt Cutts and a few geeks in Mountain View, nobody knows the 200+ factors in the Google algorithm, you have to predict the factors that may help or hurt a websites visibility in search engines. One thing to remember is that Google categorizes a search for your product or service in many different ways, for example; transactional, navigational or informational. The weight in different instances can vary and “sometimes” in favour of Google making more money, like they need it.
Repeat any previous steps as you see fit, trial new keywords for the bucket you are focused on and massage your spreadsheets based on the data you find.
Step four: where can I find other valuable keywords, especially keywords that my competitors are benefiting from?
While we are in the process of creating a winning list, it’s time for another rockstar tool, SEMrush!
SEMrush is about $80.00 per month. This tool is known for its eponymous, top-rated keyword research, business intelligence and online competitor analysis software. SEMrush offers a variety of metrics to help you understand your competition, general market and industry. You can use this tool to help develop your SEO content marketing strategy, advertising strategy and determine the general direction of your business. In combination with SECockpit used in the above step, this is a great tool to discover additional keywords, especially keywords that your competitors are benefiting from.
In this instance I will use the same keyword that I have used to start most of this research for my first bucket, “wedding gift registry.” This will spit out a table (among others) with a list of top ranking competitors. I then paste a competitors URL into the search field where I just started, i.e.
You can see here that this competitor site ranks in the top twenty Google search results 357 times.
And this number clicks through to all of the keywords that our competitor ranks for, which you can sort, based on ranking position, volume and landing page.
Simply export the list and cut up the spreadsheet how you see fit to analyse the keywords that are winning your competitor’s traffic and revenue.
This list alone delivered over 350 keyword variations. Add them to your bucket list (add them to a master list as well), delete duplicates, omit keywords that are not relevant, create new keyword or bucket list ideas. Feed these keywords into the other tools like SECockpit to quantify what is worth competing for.
And then reverse engineer this process again for another identified competitor. Bounce back through the output lists you have created and continue to add keywords to your buckets. Prioritise your buckets based on your sites products and services combined with volume, competition and relevance in mind. Spending quality time doing keyword research for search engine optimisation saves you time and money in proceeding days.
The next step is to create an editorial calendar and use these keywords to create quality engaging content in the right context.