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Keyword Research: A Beginner’s Guide

Keywords are the understructure of any SEO strategy. No matter how many algorithm updates there may have been in recent years, inbound marketers looking to optimise their websites organically must incorporate a keyword research framework in order to be successful. Our helpful guide will walk you through every aspect related to keyword research, so let’s get started.

What are keywords?

Keywords are words and phrases that a user will enter into search engines to find what they are looking for. There are three types of keywords described by length. These are as follows:

  • Short tail keywords
  • Mid-tail keywords
  • Long-tail keywords

Short tail keywords

Short tail keywords, also referred to as head or ‘generic’ keywords, are broad search terms that tend to consist of one to two words. Usually, they are very competitive to rank for due to their high search volume.

Example: Best dogs

Mid-tail keywords

Mid-tail keywords fall between the two extremities of short tail and long tail in order to find a happy medium and tend to consist of two to three words. These keywords are often described as the best of both worlds.

Example: Adopt a dog

Long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are the longest type of search terms. These are often phrases or questions your target audience is searching for, and tend to consist of three or more words. They are very specific so will often have lower search volume and competitiveness. It is also important to note that they are usually used when the user is close to a point-of-purchase.

Example: Adopt a Golden Retriever in Gloucestershire area

Maintaining a healthy balance to your search marketing ecosystem by incorporating each of the above types will enable you to target different audiences at each stage of the marketing funnel. You can reach a broader range of people and help increase your chances of securing a conversion.

Are keywords important for SEO?

SEO is complex and there are lots of elements at play. Despite this, keywords are still extremely important to any well-grounded SEO strategy. The reasons for this are:

  • Keywords give us an insight into who our target audience is, their interests, and searching habits
  • Keywords provide us with a focus for content creation
  • Keywords are essential to SEO because they are important to search engines! 
  • There is a reason why algorithms are sophisticated enough for analysing keywords and their context, and that’s because the overall purpose of search engines is to provide relevant, informative answers – in this case, web pages – to users queries

SEO keywords vs Digital Advertising keywords: What’s the difference?

It’s important to note that there is a difference between the keywords you may choose for your SEO strategy as opposed to those you may choose for your Digital Advertising campaigns

Ultimately, Digital Advertising and SEO are fundamentally different marketing approaches. With Digital Advertising, you pay for every click, so you should think carefully as you can only run ads on keywords you could afford and that have a high probability of a good return-on-ad-spend.

What is SEO keyword research?

As a fundamental SEO task, keyword research is the process of finding and analysing the search terms users enter into the search engines when looking for information, products, or services.

As you probably guessed, this task is usually done within the beginning stage of any SEO campaign. The research process is essential in determining the strategic keywords to target in your website’s content. It involves understanding your target audience and their search intent.

Keyword research should help you determine the answers to the following:

  • What are your audience searching for?
  • How high is the search volume for the search terms? And how competitive are they?
  • How are people searching for the terms? (i.e what words are they using, what questions are they asking, what device are they using, etc.)

So, how do you “do” keyword research?

As to not overcomplicate the process, let’s run through the actionable steps that you should follow when confronting your keyword research.

1. Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm!

Think about what you want to achieve: are you wanting to populate your site with content? Achieve more conversions? More enquiries? The answers to these types of questions will help you identify your niche and your competitors, which are both detrimental to the success of your campaign.

2. List your keywords

Put yourself into the shoes of your target audience: if you were looking for your company’s services, what would you type into Google? What answers would you want to be given if you were contemplating your services? Make sure to write down every potential answer, even if you believe them to be insignificant.

3. Use search engines to your advantage

Google and other search engines can be extremely valuable for your analysis, so don’t neglect them! Start typing in the terms noted in the previous step. You’ll often get suggested searches pop up whilst you’re typing which are common terms searched for. You may also find the Frequently Asked Questions accordion on the first page that relates to the long-tail keywords – those are important so take note! Additionally, you’ll get a look at your top competitors and what type of language they’re using, which is an added bonus.

4. Don’t forget the all-important Keyword Research Tools

With the right tools handy, it’ll be a breeze. Keyword research tools will allow you to analyse the average search volume and competition of a particular keyword, as well as display any related key phrases and synonyms. There are many available, but, to simplify the process, we’ve popped together a quick guide to a couple of our favourites.

Google Keyword Planner

That’s right. You can tap straight into Google’s keyword knowledge base.

Considering this is Google we’re talking about, Google Keyword Planner is considered the most reliable tool to use. There are many of the standard features available that you would expect with any tool of this sort, including average monthly search volume and competition. 

However, there are some additional metrics that would be beneficial for SEO & Digital Advertising: the top of the range bid (low and high). This is because Google Keyword Planner is essentially designed for Google Ads.  However, you can still perform SEO-focused keyword research on this platform, so don’t worry. Plus, are you going to pass up the chance to use Google’s keyword tool? We didn’t think so…


Moz Keyword Explorer

Easy to use and with a comprehensive scoring system, what’s not to like?

Moz Keyword Explorer, similar to Google Keyword Planner, will showcase some of the standard metrics of most SEO tools, but there’s a couple of added bonuses.

Organic CTR

When you search a keyword, it will display the “Organic CTR” metric, relating to the number of clicks to be expected if you hit page 1.

Keyword length

Remember when we spoke about mid-tail and long-tail keywords? Well, Moz Keyword Explorer will display these as suggestions during your search. Most SEO tools will display relevant, similar suggestions to your searched term, but this is just another level of detail we like the sound of!

5. Separate your list by search intent

Somehow easily forgotten, yet one of the most important parts of any searched term, search intent relates to the purpose of a user’s search. There are four distinct types of search intents. These are:

  • Informational intent: As the name suggests, this intent relates to information that the user is searching for. The user will have a specific question or want to know more about a certain topic. This is the most common search intent.
  • Navigational intent: This intent relates to a specific website desired by the user, such as Instagram or Gmail.
  • Transactional intent: This intent relates to the user’s purpose of buying the specific product/service they are searching for.
  • Commercial intent: In contrast to transactional intent, this intent relates to users who may want to make a purchase in the near future, but are still in their research phase.

By identifying which of these your terms relate to, you will gain an insight into the intent of your potential customers. It will also help you optimise for user experience which your website should be striving for.

6. Plan your keyword strategy

Now that you have the above figured out, it’s time to start planning. Now that you have your keywords, competitor analysis, and search intent, correlating this all together into a strategy is the next step. It’s a big task, but we know you’re up to the challenge. It’s time to look closely at your website. Ask yourself the following:

  • How does my website compare to the high-ranking pages?
  • Do I have the landing pages available to help me rank for my desired terms?
  • What content can I create that relates to my chosen keywords?

It’s all about having that critical eye, and, being able to distinguish between what you may think you want to achieve, and what you should achieve. No one says it’s easy, and there will be tweaks made along the way, but that’s what SEO is all about.

So, there you have it, your beginner’s guide to keyword research. It’s a LOT to take in, and it can feel overwhelming, but keyword research is the basis for any sustainable SEO strategy.

If you’re unsure about whether you have the right resources available for all the above, or you want to speak to an agency that knows what they’re on about, upUgo are here to help!

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