A whopping 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine. Making sure your business ranks well is imperative to being found online.
Keyword research is the first critical step in developing your SEO strategy. But the way that you undertake keyword research for your homepage will be different from how you settle on the right search terms for your content like blog posts and podcasts. Plus, keyword research and content creation should have a symbiotic relationship.
As you research your keywords and begin to understand how prospects are searching, you can plan and create content that speaks directly to searchers’ intent and needs.
Here’s a quick, 6-step guide to help you get your content research off the ground and drive the right kind of traffic — traffic that is more likely to convert.
We’ll start by talking about what keyword research is.
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is the process of finding and analyzing popular search terms that people enter into search engines like Google, and include them strategically in your content so that your content appears higher on a search engine results page.
Keyword research can help you find ideas for your next blog post, learn more about the needs of your audience, and keep up to date with the lingo of the ever-changing search landscape. Researching what people type into search engines and using this data to create targeted content will ultimately help you drive the right traffic to your site.
Here are 6 quick, easy steps to help you get started.
Step 1: Start with Your Own List of Keywords
Start by brainstorming on your own. You know your business and what you offer to your customers, so you probably have a solid sense of the terms they’re searching for to find you.
It’s important to note that in recent years there’s been a shift in the way that Google handles search queries. Google is now more invested in ranking results based on intent. The person who searches for “home remodeling ideas” is probably looking for something different than the person who searches for “best home remodeler in Kansas City,” right? The latter searcher is probably ready to start knocking down walls and ripping out tile, whereas the former might be daydreaming about redoing their kitchen someday in the next couple of years. Therefore, the results are going to vary.
Google acknowledges that the intent behind those searches is radically different, and so they’re now displaying results differently for those search queries. Because of this trend towards semantic search, it’s now important for businesses to consider long-tail keywords.
While your homepage might have keywords that are broader and more likely to cast a wider net, snatching up searchers at various stages of the customer journey, you want the keywords associated with your individual product pages and informative content to be more targeted.
If a home remodeler has various pages for the types of services they offer—kitchen, bathroom, home additions, basement finishing, and so on—they should have long-tail keywords for each of those pages that speak to that subset of the broader audience.
Step 2: Turn to Auto-Suggest
Another great starting point for your content keyword research is to start searching in Google yourself. Autocomplete is a great to use early and often when developing content calendars and general organic search strategies. You can uncover quality long-tail phrases that are commonly searched across the web by your audience.
Take some of the broader keywords you’ve identified for your business and see what comes up in auto-suggest.
Let’s return to the home remodeling example. When you type in home remodel, you get some auto-suggestions that indicate a few trends. One is about technology; the fifth and sixth suggestion have to do with apps and software. The other is about financing; people often search about loans or government incentives associated with remodeling.
This tells you something important about what prospects are thinking about when considering remodeling for themselves. They’re worried about the financial aspect (we all know renovations aren’t cheap!), and they like the idea of being able to have a hand in the design process, accessing technology that can help them plan out and visualize their dream kitchen or bathroom.
If you don’t already have content on your website that speaks to those major areas of interest or concern, maybe it’s time to consider adding some! It’s also helpful to go through and click on those auto-suggestions to see what content does appear when you Google “home remodel incentive,” for example. Who is already ranking in those results? Are they direct competitors? Is there a gap in the type of information you can find in that search—one that you could fill with original content on your site?
Step 3: Check out the Competition and See How They’re Ranking For Your Keywords
While it’s important to think about your own strategy, it’s also a smart idea to consider what your competitors are up to. There are plenty of tools out there that can help you do some opposition research into the keywords your competitors are using.
A site like SEMrush can help you see your known competitor’s keywords, identify other potential competitors that you hadn’t previously considered, and monitor shifts in where your domain is ranking (you can access a free 14-day trial of SEMrush Pro using this link).
You can also spend some time on your competitors’ website. Take a look at how they organize their content. Is there a way for you to differentiate your site and content from theirs—a unique approach that you can take to sharing what you do?
Step 4: Ask Your Customers
By this point, you’ve done a lot of digging into keyword research on your own. Now it’s time to ask your customers what they think. Sometimes the people who know and love your business will have a unique take on what’s so special about you, and it will help you to hit on a vein of content to mine that you wouldn’t have found on your own.
Don’t think of this as a daunting task. Asking for feedback can be as simple as sending a quick survey or simply asking people as part of your conversation with them while you’re on the phone.
There are a few helpful questions to ask, like:
“What search terms did you use when you were researching how to fix your problem?”
“What search terms ultimately led you to our business?”
Plus, it’s helpful to ask what it is that they think sets you apart from the competition; writing about what makes you different is a way to help your content stand out.
Step 5: Look at Google’s Keyword Planner (and Google Trends)
Once you’ve gathered up this bundle of keyword suggestions, it’s time to head to Google’s Keyword Planner tool. While it’s designed to work with paid search, it can also help direct your organic search efforts. Keyword Planner can help you get an idea of the right keywords you want to target by considering monthly search frequency, competition, and even cost-per-click (CPC) pricing.
You do need a Google Ads account to access it, but once you’re in, you can begin to get information about the size of the audience you’ll be able to reach with each keyword, and more.
Google Trends can help you determine which terms are trending upward, and are thus worth more of your focus. (This can be accessed without an ads account.)
For local businesses, it’s best to hone in on keywords that are not overly competitive and have a manageable reach. If you go for broad keywords that are highly competitive and can reach millions of people, it doesn’t do you much good. You’ll then find yourself coming up against giant brands, and you’ll never be able to rank well in that arena. Plus, you don’t need to reach tens of millions of people; you’re serving your specific community, so those are the people you want to see your name in SERPs.
Step 6: Create Hub Pages
Once you’ve settled on the keywords for your content, it’s important to mold the content itself to speak to the intent behind these keywords. You understand now what your audience wants, it’s time to create content that gives them just that.
I’ve talked a lot about building hub pages recently, and that’s because they’re an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to establishing trust and authority plus dominating in search results. Hub pages allow you to build what’s essentially a mini-Wikipedia for your area of expertise. You put all of your content related to a given topic on a hub page and tie it together in a way that addresses the questions a prospect might have.
Let’s return to the home remodeler example. One of their hub pages could be “The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Remodeling.” On that page, they’ll link out to content (blog posts, video, podcasts) that cover all the ins and outs of a kitchen remodel, from initial research to picking finishes to project management once the renovation is underway.
Through keyword research, you learned that financing the project and using tech in the design stages were important issues for a lot of homeowners, so you want to include content that addresses those issues.
With this hub page, you become the comprehensive source of information on the entire kitchen renovation process. Not only does this allow you to become an authority early on in prospects’ research (making them all the more likely to turn to you when they’re ready to hire someone!), it also does great things for your SEO. Prospects stay on this hub page for a while—there’s a lot of information to soak in! They click on a couple of articles, navigating back to the hub page in between. They may even share an article with their spouse about the renovation process, or send a video to their friend who’s helping them pick new appliances.
When visitors spend a lot of time on one page, search engines get the message that it’s a well of great content. They want to provide their searchers with the best results, so they bump your hub page up in SERPs to ensure that it gets found by a broader audience.
Great keyword research for content is about using that research to guide your content creation process. You can learn a lot about search intent and what prospects are looking for by undertaking effective keyword research. Armed with that knowledge, you can then create content that speaks to those prospects’ wants and needs, ensuring that you stand out from the competition.