Keyword Research

The purpose of this page is to help current or potential customers understand what keyword research is and how we use it.

Keyword research is an important factor in improving your website’s performance and reaching more customers by ranking higher in search engine results. There are several different levels of keyword research that we use in SEO campaigns to help you reach your business goals.

What Is Keyword Research (in a Nutshell)?

Keyword research is the process of discovering how people search. Specifically, it involves understanding what terms they use while looking for things online. These are the words and phrases users enter when using search engines like Google. Google captures this data and makes it available for review within the Keyword Planner tool in AdWords.

To be successful with an SEO campaign, it’s important to understand the “keyword universe” for the subject matter. As SEO strategists, we need to determine all of the possible ways a person could search for a topic related to your business or website. Armed with this information, you can begin to make a plan for reaching the users behind these queries.

Research at the Keyword Level

Looking at individual words or phrases as described above is the keyword-level approach to research. This process involves taking a seed set of terms and retrieving more information about those terms, such as:

  • How many times it is searched per month
  • What other closely related terms should be considered
  • Other factors like how competitive a term is, how many other websites the term appears on, bidding costs for ad campaigns, etc.

For example, searching the term “widgets” in Google’s keyword tool produces results like this:

keyword results

Keyword-level research is commonly used during on-page optimization. In this process, an SEO analyst looks at a web page with the goal of improving it. In the initial phases of an SEO campaign, or for an SEO audit, this cursory level is helpful when optimizing each page of a site.

Research at the Customer Level

At the highest level, the ultimate goal of keyword research is to bring the user into focus. Understanding search queries starts to tell you something about potential customers, or your target audience.

Once you know more about these users, you can build profiles (or personas) for specific audiences. Personas can be complicated files about fictitious characters or simply a loose set of concepts. For quite a while, web designers have used personas to help them create websites that enhance the user’s experience. However, even just understanding a few core considerations about your audience can be extremely helpful:

  • What situation are they in?
  • What do they want to do?
  • Are there problems they are trying to address?
  • What would their ideal outcome be?

Business-Level Keyword Research

Understanding the Business or Client
As SEO experts, we need to dive into the business and learn how it works. Understanding more about the current customers will help us to better know the personas described above.

While we aren’t performing an MBA-level analysis, reviewing the current site and talking to business owners about current products, revenue, best sellers, and sales goals provides important benchmarks for measuring a campaign’s success. Reading customer reviews, social media conversations, and other CRM insights that might be shared also helps to refine our strategy.

Keyword Research at the Data Retrieval Level

For SEO, the most important immediate insights occur using data retrieved from the existing site. Visitors landing on the site from search engines leave behind many clues about who they are, what they want, and what they find valuable.

Some of the ways to find this information include:

  • Reviewing terms people use to land on your site
  • Knowing which pages people visit on your website
  • Understanding what they search for when they get there (internal site search)
  • Reading feedback and any questions they might ask

Other helpful “off-site” clues can be found on the web, including:

  • Website rankings (what terms you rank well for)
  • Ways other people may have linked to you (anchor text of inbound links)

Competitor-Level Research
Knowing terms that people use to land on your competitors’ websites is important, too. Using various SEO tools like Semrush allows you to see the terms your competition’s websites are ranking for and decide if these terms are valuable to you. If these terms drive a lot of traffic, then they probably will be.

Distinctions between Business “Jargon” & Consumer Colloquialism
Sometimes a gap becomes visible between the business-level gatherings and the data-level collection: what the users are actually doing vs. what the business thinks they are doing.

There may also be differences in how a potential customer thinks of a product vs. what the company thinks about the same thing. For example, those who work in the furniture industry often say “sofa,” whereas the average person might use the word “couch.”

Most of the time, industry terms will drive less traffic to your site. To increase success, it’s important to understand the dynamics between your brand aspirations and the consumer’s perspective.

Keyword Research for Content

Knowing which terms and phrases users enter in search engine queries is also an important factor when creating content. This information helps you to focus your content strategy on the most sought-after information. You may discover topics competing sites cover to include on your own or find other related keywords with minimal competition to target.

Keyword research also helps ensure that the content on each page of your site is optimized to rank well in search results. Including these words and phrases within product descriptions, blog posts, and other written copy makes them more likely to appear in search engine rankings, increasing your chances of reaching more members of your target audience.