The start of the new year is a perfect time to evaluate your SEO strategy and whether or not you could use a fresh start. This process begins by taking a look at your keywords.
Using keywords without a proper strategy is a recipe for failure, as keywords are the building blocks of any piece of content and the foundation of any successful SEO strategy. When used correctly, keywords help identify an article’s main topic or theme, provide structure throughout the piece, and can help boost your traffic in 2023 and beyond.
In this comprehensive keyword research guide, we’ll detail what keyword research is, the tools we love, and ultimately, how to ensure your keyword research strategy for 2023 is setting your business up for success!
WHAT IS KEYWORD RESEARCH?
Keyword research is the process of identifying important words and phrases your target audience is searching for to drive traffic, sales, and leads to your website. They can be one word, a phrase, a question, and even a sentence.
While researching, you’ll not only determine what keywords people are searching for but how many people are searching for them. Although it’s a core part of any SEO strategy, keyword research is also vital for other areas of digital marketing, like PPC and content marketing.
BEGINNING KEYWORD RESEARCH
Before you begin your keyword research, you should closely examine your website. Do you sell products or offer services? What topics do you cover? Is there an active blog? These questions provide a good starting point for you to start thinking about why (and how) users are ending up on your website.
You don’t have to rely on your brain alone! There are several tools available to help you perform keyword research, including:
- Google Search Console
- Google Suggest and Google Related Search
- Google “People Also Ask”
Ahrefs is a powerful tool that provides a variety of data points for keyword research. You can use it for competitive analysis, organic research, and more.
Let’s take a look at our favorite Ahrefs features, which include the organic keyword report, content gap, and keyword explorer.
Organic Keywords Report
The organic keyword report provides an excellent overview of organic search performance, allowing you to see search volume, keyword difficulty, and current position. Once you have that information, you can use it to determine your chances of ranking for a particular set of keywords, or how you can improve your current rankings. You can also use some of the tool’s filters to narrow down your keyword list.
Content Gap Report
You need to know what kind of content businesses similar to you are producing to stay competitive and a content gap report is a good way to do so. When you perform a content gap report, you can find new keyword topics your website may be missing but competitors are already using.
Enter Ahrefs’ Content Gap analysis. This report compares a website to several of your competitors. Then, it returns a list of keywords for which your target website doesn’t rank.
Once you have this list, you can design a strategy around these new opportunities. Just note that if your competition offers different services or products, you must carefully go through the results to filter out non-relevant keywords.
After running the report, the next step is to make a list of these new opportunities in a spreadsheet. Organize each keyword into categories. Then, you can add them to an existing page or create a new page optimized around the topic.
The Keyword Explorer tool in Ahrefs allows you to enter multiple keywords at once. It also estimates search volume and difficulty, which can help you decide which keywords are best to target for your website.
Within the keyword report is a section for questions related to your root keyword. Creating content around these questions is a great way to provide value to your website visitors and potential customers.
Semrush is another powerful tool that provides valuable keyword research data. Some of our favorite Semrush features include Domain Overview, Organic Research, Keyword Gap Analysis, and the Keyword Magic Tool. Learn more below.
Domain Overview provides a general snapshot of a website’s performance, allowing you to see its organic keywords and estimated traffic. Both of these metrics are helpful while analyzing your competitors. Input a competitor’s website into this tool and look at their ranking keywords to gain ideas on how you can optimize your own website with those keywords.
The Organic Research feature provides an overview of your website’s performance in the search results. The best way to use this feature is to enter a competitor and view their complete list of ranking keywords. When examining your competitor’s keywords, you can reevaluate your website’s tags and content and determine areas of improvement. You can also view keywords based on ranking positions and changes in the ranking positions.
The Keyword Gap tool is very similar to the Ahrefs Content gap report. You can use this tool during competitive analysis to identify keywords your competition is ranking for, but you are not. It separates all the keywords it finds into groups based on the ranking status, which is helpful during the keyword research process.
Here is a breakdown of the keyword groups available through this tool:
- Shared: keywords that rank for both your website and your competitors.
- Missing: keywords you are not ranking for currently.
- Weak: keywords your website ranks for but are low in the search results and could use improvement.
- Strong: keywords for which you are ranking well.
- Untapped: keywords for which at least one competitor is ranking.
- Unique: keywords for which only your website is ranking.
After analyzing these groups, you can develop a more informed strategy for optimizing your keywords, like creating content featuring missing keywords or strengthening existing content by working in missing keywords.
Keyword Magic Tool
Use the Keyword Magic Tool to find keywords for your website. When you enter your base keyword into this feature, you will receive a large list of keywords to consider for your campaign. Though the list is extensive, you can easily filter the keywords to view the most relevant options.
For an SEO campaign, don’t forget to take advantage of the questions section of this tool since you can use it to develop website content. Aside from questions, you can also view the search intent of each keyword, ensuring you’re honing in on the best keywords for your audience.
Although many of these tools within Semrush provide similar information, we recommend using each of them in order to maximize your keyword opportunities.
If you don’t have access to Ahrefs, Semrush, or similar tools, you can simply use Google to find keyword opportunities.
While many of these tools cost money to use effectively, Google is free. The search engine allows you to find new keywords directly on the search engine results page (SERP). These include Google suggest, related searches, and the People Also Ask section.
When performing a search on Google, you may notice a list of suggested keywords appears under the search bar once you start typing. These are recommendations directly from Google and provide excellent keyword opportunities to consider.
Google also provides related searches, which show up at the bottom of the search results. These phrases are similar to your initial search query and show what other people with similar interests and intentions are searching for.
People Also Ask
You can also leverage the “People Also Ask” section. These are questions that Google deems relevant to your search query. Answering these questions on your website is an excellent way to enhance your content.
Google Search Console is a free tool that provides data about your website’s performance in the search results, including both technical and keyword data. Search Console also works well with tools like Ahrefs.
For example, you can use Search Console to gather a list of keywords ranking in positions 11-15. This information provides opportunities for content that can be improved or promoted to help it move toward page one of the search results.
You can export this keyword report and use Ahrefs keyword explorer to find search volume data for these opportunities. Then, you can use this new data to narrow down your search for the best keyword options to consider.
OPTIMIZING FOR SEARCH INTENT
Search Intent is what a user wants to accomplish with their specific search and falls into one of the following categories: informational, transactional, or navigational. If you’re unsure about the intent of a query you plan to optimize for, the best thing to do is see what you can find in the search results.
An example of an informational search query would be “what is the ideal height for grass?” In this case, the user is likely looking for landscaping information, but probably not a lawn service or landscaper specifically. While this makes for a great topic for a blog post, the odds of getting a ton of conversions from this query aren’t high.
Transactional search queries, on the other hand, typically provide the highest opportunity for a conversion. Someone searching “lawn service near me” is in the market for a local lawn care company and is much more likely to arrive at the website and either fill out a form or call for more information. You should generally map these types of keywords to the main pages on the website, such as the homepage, about page, and services pages.
Don’t Forget to Check Your Competitors
Keyword research isn’t complete without looking at your competitors. Conducting a competitive analysis can provide you with an assortment of data to help you find the best keywords for your business. To start this process, search for your keywords and note which websites rank at the top of the SERPs.
Next, use Ahrefs Site Explorer to look up data about your competitors’ website, like how many keywords the page ranks for. This information can help you find new keyword opportunities or plan your next piece of content.
After working hard to narrow down a list of potential keywords through various tools, add them to a spreadsheet. You can group them by topic or theme. For example, “Landscaping Ideas” or “How to Care for Your Lawn” can be on different pages and optimized for keywords that fit within each of these topics.
Overall, keyword research is an essential part of digital marketing. Whether optimizing your website for organic search or running a PPC campaign, the right keyword strategy can help your business attract the right customers while helping you achieve your business goals.
Need help with your keyword or digital marketing strategy in 2023? Contact us today!