Chapter 2. On-Page SEO

Why Is Keyword Research Important and How To Do It?

Why Is Keyword Research Important and How To Do It?
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Keyword research is a cornerstone of Search Engine Optimization. It involves identifying the terms and phrases people use in search engines, which is essential for tailoring your website's content to meet the needs of your target audience.

In this learning section, we'll explain why keyword research is important and how to do it using key SEO tools.

Why is keyword research important?

What is keyword research?

In SEO, keyword research is research and analysis used to find the right keywords for a website or web page.

Keywords can connect users and web pages. Without the right keywords, your website may not be viewed by anyone.

Search engines assess web page content's relevance to the search query (keywords). Search engines check the relevance based on text content on each web page.

Understanding of keyword demand and competition

As many existing websites have been trying to attract users, popular keywords that generate high traffic are generally very competitive.

As a rule of thumb, when you publish a new website, you need to avoid high-competition keywords and target keywords with a lower competition.

For example, suppose when you are searching for your potential target keywords, existing pages with high domain and page authority occupy the top 10 search results. In that case, it is tough for you to get into the top 10 ranks quickly as the existing pages have already made tremendous effort to show up there over several years.

On the other hand, keywords with a lower competition usually have low or no search volume. If you target keywords with a minimal search volume, your efforts may not bring any rewards.

It is important to understand keyword research because it can help you avoid the two situations described above through understanding demand and competition levels and setting a keyword strategy that will maximize your ROI of SEO efforts.

Keyword Demand and Competition

Two key metrics often represent demand and competition: monthly search volume and keyword difficulty (or competition level).

Monthly Search Volume

Monthly search volume is how many searches are done for a specific keyword or phrase over a month. It's not a number of users nor a number of clicks on SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).

Keyword difficulty

Keyword difficulty, often abbreviated as KD, is used to gauge how challenging it would be to rank for a particular keyword on SERPs.

This metric is typically presented on a scale of 0 to 100, where 100 is the score that makes it the hardest for a keyword to achieve a top-ranking position.

You need specific tools to get the data for monthly search volume and keyword difficulty. We'll explain select tools later in this learning section.

Short, mid, and long-tail keywords

In SEO and SEM (Search Engine Marketing), a keyword usually doesn't mean only one word. A keyphrase with multiple words is also considered a keyword.

The concept of short-tail, mid-tail, and long-tail keywords is essential in keyword research. This concept helps set your keyword strategy and prioritize keywords depending on your website's situation.

Short, Mid, and Long-Tail Keywords

Short-tail Keyword:

  • It has a broad meaning and includes one or two words, such as "cat" or "cat food."
  • Search volume and competition are usually high.
  • Search intent (purposes users are searching for) is not clear.

Mid-tail Keyword:

  • It has a more specific meaning than a short-tail keyword and usually includes two or three words, such as "organic cat food".
  • Search volume and competition are usually moderate.
  • The user's search intent is clearer, but not specific enough.

Long-tail Keyword:

  • It has a particular meaning and usually includes more than three words, such as "best organic cat food for indoor cats".
  • Search volume and competition are usually low.
  • The user's search intent is specific and clear.

There are trade-offs in selecting short-, mid-, or long-tail keywords. If you target a short-tail keyword from the beginning, you may not get any results in the short term due to high competition with incumbents.

If your website or pages are new, the best approach to SEO is targeting long or mid-tail keywords whose competition level is lower than that for short-tail keywords.

As the competition level of long- or mid-tail keywords is lower, the chances of your new pages being ranked on the first SERP will be higher if you target those keywords.

As users' search intent in long- or mid-tail keywords is more apparent, you can also expect higher conversion using these keywords.

Key steps for keyword research

There are four or five key steps for keyword research. The last step is keyword optimization activities, which will be covered in more detail in the following learning sections.

  1. Define the objectives of keyword research
  2. Set a seed keyword
  3. Expand keyword ideas and analyze them using keyword planning tools
  4. Select target keywords
  5. Use the target keywords in SEO activities

1. Define the objectives of keyword research

Defining the objectives of keyword research is critical to conducting keyword research effectively. Depending on the objectives, priority keywords can be different.

Conversion vs. traffic

If the website is an e-commerce site, the objective is to sell products (conversion). In this case, you want to get users who intend to buy the type of products you are selling.

If the website is part of web media and does not intend to sell any products or services, the objective is to gain user traffic.

Specific web page vs. entire website

If you are doing keyword research for one web page, you need to define one primary keyword with some secondary keywords for the page.

However, if you are doing keyword research for the entire website with multiple pages, you need to create sets of keywords and map them to each web page.

2. Set a seed keyword

Once the objectives are defined clearly, you need to set a seed keyword.

If you have a content outline, seed keywords should naturally come out. For example, if you are selling "cat food", "cat food" is the seed keyword.

There may be some seed keyword candidates when there are different expressions for similar concepts—for example, "coffee shop" or "café".

In that case, you need to analyze both seed keywords in parallel.

3. Expand keyword ideas and analyze them using keyword planning tools

The next step is expanding keyword ideas and analyzing them.

There are several free and paid tools that help expand keyword ideas using critical data, such as Monthly Search Volume and Keyword Difficulty (or competition level).

Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is a free tool provided on the Google Ads platform.

To use this tool, go to the Google Ads platform. Click the Tool menu on the left sidebar. Under the Planning section, you can find the Keyword Planner.

This tool gives you monthly search volume with numbers; however, competition information is qualitative only (Low, Medium, and High). If you want to know more details about competition or keyword difficulty, you need to consider other tools.

Google Keyword Planner - Monthly Search Volume and Competition Data

Google Ads is available here.

Google Trends

Google Trends is a free web tool. You can check keyword search volume trends for a specified time frame.

This tool can be especially powerful when you want to see a long-term trend or identify hot keywords (rising keywords); however, this tool doesn't provide keyword difficulty or competition information. For example, the screenshot below shows that the keyword "SEO AI" search volume has been rising.

Google Trends Output Example - SEO AI

Google Trends is available here.

Other Free Tools

Some free tools, such as Ahref Free Keyword Generator and Moz Keyword Explorer, provide more information about keyword difficulty.

By using these tools, you can get more granular information. However, the data you can get from them is limited compared to paid tools.

ahrefs Free Keyword Generator
ahrefs Free Keyword Generator Output Example for SEO tools

sahrefs Free Keyword Generator is available here.

Moz Keyword Explorer
Moz Keyword Explorer Output Example for SEO tools

Moz Keyword Explorer is available here.

Paid Tools

For a more robust keyword analysis, you should consider signing up for paid tools like Semrush, Ahref, and Moz Pro.

They provide more comprehensive keyword analysis information with additional features, such as target keyword recommendations.

As these tools provide other SEO features, including site audit and backlink analysis, you should consider their benefit in terms of an overall SEO productivity improvement.

Semrush Keyword Research Tools

Semrush Keyword Overview Output Example for SEO tools

4. Select target keywords

Once you have a long list of target keyword candidates, you need to prioritize them and select target keywords based on supporting facts, such as volume, keyword difficulty, and alignment with objectives.

One primary target keyword for one page

In most cases, your web page competes with other existing web pages, and top-ranked pages result from massive SEO efforts by their page owners.

If you want your web page to get in the top 10 on the SERP (Search Engine Result Page), your efforts should be concentrated on a specific target.

Ultimately, your page may be ranked for multiple keywords; however, starting from one primary target keyword (or keyword phrase) is better.

Especially if you are an SEO beginner and your website is new, setting multiple target keywords or phrases complicates your SEO strategy.

If you have multiple pages on your website, you should prepare multiple primary keywords and assign them to each page.

Start from long- or mid-tail keywords

As explained earlier, targeting short-tail keywords from the very beginning is usually challenging. Short-tail keywords can generate a lot of traffic as their search volume is generally very high; however, the competition level to get a higher page rank is also high.

If your website is new, target long-tail keywords or mid-tail keywords first.

Prepare semantic keywords as secondary target keywords

As search engine crawlers are getting smarter, they value helpful information related to the keywords users search for.

In the SEO context, semantic keywords mean keywords or key phrases related to the target keyword.

To provide more meaningful information to users, it is good to use these keywords on top of the primary target keywords.

If you are an expert on the topic, you may naturally come up with semantic keywords, but your ideas may differ from what the users are looking for.

To identify semantic keywords efficiently, you can also use Search Engines besides the keyword planning tools.

For example, if your primary target keyword is "SEO Content Writing", type it in the Google search box. You'll see that the related keywords that users search for frequently are shown in the middle section of the search results page.

Identifying Semantic Keywords Using Google Search Engine

To know more about semantic keywords, check this article – Semantic Keywords: What They Are & How to Find Them.

Note: LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) Keywords

LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) Keywords were previously used in SEO content writing, and they are still helpful in identifying semantic keywords; however, using LSI keywords is not mandatory in recent SEO content writing.

LSI is a relatively old technology, and Google now applies various approaches to identify semantic keywords.

You can check this article to better understand the latest LSI status – What Are LSI Keywords & Why They Don‘t Matter.

5. Use the target keywords in SEO activities

The keyword research results are primarily used for on-page SEO, but they are also crucial for off-page SEO to define key sources for off-page SEO activities.

What’s next after keyword research?

On-Page SEO

For on-page SEO, once you set target keywords (primary and secondary), you need to optimize content using the keywords.

Steps to optimize content are different between single-page optimization and multiple-page optimization.

Single page optimization

For the single page optimization, you need to do keyword placement, which is strategical positioning of the target keywords in specific locations in the HTML document.

We'll explain how to strategically position the target keywords in the learning section — 9 Key Steps in SEO Content Writing for Individual Web Page.

Multiple page optimization

Suppose you optimize multiple pages, like optimizing the entire website. In that case, you need to do keyword mapping, which is strategically assigning target keywords to each web page before placing keywords on each page.

We'll explain keyword mapping in the learning section — Keyword Mapping and Clustering - Organize Multiple Pages.

Single-page keyword optimization and multiple-page keyword optimization

Off-Page SEO

The defined target keywords are crucial for setting directions for off-page SEO by guiding strategies for backlink building, content marketing, and social media campaigns.

They help identify relevant platforms for acquiring valuable backlinks and inform content creation for guest blogging and social posts, ensuring alignment with audience's interests.

Conclusion

Effective keyword research is essential for connecting your content with the right audience, ensuring your website is visible and relevant in search engine results.

By strategically selecting short-, mid-, and long-tail keywords based on competition and search volume, you can optimize both on-page and off-page SEO activities.

This approach not only enhances your website's discoverability, but also aligns with user intent, leading to higher engagement and conversions.

In the following learning sections, we'll explain how to optimize web page content using target keywords.


You can also learn this topic on Kindle. ClickAmazonKindle.

Keyword research is a cornerstone of Search Engine Optimization. It involves identifying the terms and phrases people use in search engines, which is essential for tailoring your website's content to meet the needs of your target audience.

In this learning section, we'll explain why keyword research is important and how to do it using key SEO tools.

Why is keyword research important?

What is keyword research?

In SEO, keyword research is research and analysis used to find the right keywords for a website or web page.

Keywords can connect users and web pages. Without the right keywords, your website may not be viewed by anyone.

Search engines assess web page content's relevance to the search query (keywords). Search engines check the relevance based on text content on each web page.

Understanding of keyword demand and competition

As many existing websites have been trying to attract users, popular keywords that generate high traffic are generally very competitive.

As a rule of thumb, when you publish a new website, you need to avoid high-competition keywords and target keywords with a lower competition.

For example, suppose when you are searching for your potential target keywords, existing pages with high domain and page authority occupy the top 10 search results. In that case, it is tough for you to get into the top 10 ranks quickly as the existing pages have already made tremendous effort to show up there over several years.

On the other hand, keywords with a lower competition usually have low or no search volume. If you target keywords with a minimal search volume, your efforts may not bring any rewards.

It is important to understand keyword research because it can help you avoid the two situations described above through understanding demand and competition levels and setting a keyword strategy that will maximize your ROI of SEO efforts.

Keyword Demand and Competition

Two key metrics often represent demand and competition: monthly search volume and keyword difficulty (or competition level).

Monthly Search Volume

Monthly search volume is how many searches are done for a specific keyword or phrase over a month. It's not a number of users nor a number of clicks on SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).

Keyword difficulty

Keyword difficulty, often abbreviated as KD, is used to gauge how challenging it would be to rank for a particular keyword on SERPs.

This metric is typically presented on a scale of 0 to 100, where 100 is the score that makes it the hardest for a keyword to achieve a top-ranking position.

You need specific tools to get the data for monthly search volume and keyword difficulty. We'll explain select tools later in this learning section.

Short, mid, and long-tail keywords

In SEO and SEM (Search Engine Marketing), a keyword usually doesn't mean only one word. A keyphrase with multiple words is also considered a keyword.

The concept of short-tail, mid-tail, and long-tail keywords is essential in keyword research. This concept helps set your keyword strategy and prioritize keywords depending on your website's situation.

Short, Mid, and Long-Tail Keywords

Short-tail Keyword:

  • It has a broad meaning and includes one or two words, such as "cat" or "cat food."
  • Search volume and competition are usually high.
  • Search intent (purposes users are searching for) is not clear.

Mid-tail Keyword:

  • It has a more specific meaning than a short-tail keyword and usually includes two or three words, such as "organic cat food".
  • Search volume and competition are usually moderate.
  • The user's search intent is clearer, but not specific enough.

Long-tail Keyword:

  • It has a particular meaning and usually includes more than three words, such as "best organic cat food for indoor cats".
  • Search volume and competition are usually low.
  • The user's search intent is specific and clear.

There are trade-offs in selecting short-, mid-, or long-tail keywords. If you target a short-tail keyword from the beginning, you may not get any results in the short term due to high competition with incumbents.

If your website or pages are new, the best approach to SEO is targeting long or mid-tail keywords whose competition level is lower than that for short-tail keywords.

As the competition level of long- or mid-tail keywords is lower, the chances of your new pages being ranked on the first SERP will be higher if you target those keywords.

As users' search intent in long- or mid-tail keywords is more apparent, you can also expect higher conversion using these keywords.

Key steps for keyword research

There are four or five key steps for keyword research. The last step is keyword optimization activities, which will be covered in more detail in the following learning sections.

  1. Define the objectives of keyword research
  2. Set a seed keyword
  3. Expand keyword ideas and analyze them using keyword planning tools
  4. Select target keywords
  5. Use the target keywords in SEO activities

1. Define the objectives of keyword research

Defining the objectives of keyword research is critical to conducting keyword research effectively. Depending on the objectives, priority keywords can be different.

Conversion vs. traffic

If the website is an e-commerce site, the objective is to sell products (conversion). In this case, you want to get users who intend to buy the type of products you are selling.

If the website is part of web media and does not intend to sell any products or services, the objective is to gain user traffic.

Specific web page vs. entire website

If you are doing keyword research for one web page, you need to define one primary keyword with some secondary keywords for the page.

However, if you are doing keyword research for the entire website with multiple pages, you need to create sets of keywords and map them to each web page.

2. Set a seed keyword

Once the objectives are defined clearly, you need to set a seed keyword.

If you have a content outline, seed keywords should naturally come out. For example, if you are selling "cat food", "cat food" is the seed keyword.

There may be some seed keyword candidates when there are different expressions for similar concepts—for example, "coffee shop" or "café".

In that case, you need to analyze both seed keywords in parallel.

3. Expand keyword ideas and analyze them using keyword planning tools

The next step is expanding keyword ideas and analyzing them.

There are several free and paid tools that help expand keyword ideas using critical data, such as Monthly Search Volume and Keyword Difficulty (or competition level).

Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is a free tool provided on the Google Ads platform.

To use this tool, go to the Google Ads platform. Click the Tool menu on the left sidebar. Under the Planning section, you can find the Keyword Planner.

This tool gives you monthly search volume with numbers; however, competition information is qualitative only (Low, Medium, and High). If you want to know more details about competition or keyword difficulty, you need to consider other tools.

Google Keyword Planner - Monthly Search Volume and Competition Data

Google Ads is available here.

Google Trends

Google Trends is a free web tool. You can check keyword search volume trends for a specified time frame.

This tool can be especially powerful when you want to see a long-term trend or identify hot keywords (rising keywords); however, this tool doesn't provide keyword difficulty or competition information. For example, the screenshot below shows that the keyword "SEO AI" search volume has been rising.

Google Trends Output Example - SEO AI

Google Trends is available here.

Other Free Tools

Some free tools, such as Ahref Free Keyword Generator and Moz Keyword Explorer, provide more information about keyword difficulty.

By using these tools, you can get more granular information. However, the data you can get from them is limited compared to paid tools.

ahrefs Free Keyword Generator
ahrefs Free Keyword Generator Output Example for SEO tools

sahrefs Free Keyword Generator is available here.

Moz Keyword Explorer
Moz Keyword Explorer Output Example for SEO tools

Moz Keyword Explorer is available here.

Paid Tools

For a more robust keyword analysis, you should consider signing up for paid tools like Semrush, Ahref, and Moz Pro.

They provide more comprehensive keyword analysis information with additional features, such as target keyword recommendations.

As these tools provide other SEO features, including site audit and backlink analysis, you should consider their benefit in terms of an overall SEO productivity improvement.

Semrush Keyword Research Tools

Semrush Keyword Overview Output Example for SEO tools

4. Select target keywords

Once you have a long list of target keyword candidates, you need to prioritize them and select target keywords based on supporting facts, such as volume, keyword difficulty, and alignment with objectives.

One primary target keyword for one page

In most cases, your web page competes with other existing web pages, and top-ranked pages result from massive SEO efforts by their page owners.

If you want your web page to get in the top 10 on the SERP (Search Engine Result Page), your efforts should be concentrated on a specific target.

Ultimately, your page may be ranked for multiple keywords; however, starting from one primary target keyword (or keyword phrase) is better.

Especially if you are an SEO beginner and your website is new, setting multiple target keywords or phrases complicates your SEO strategy.

If you have multiple pages on your website, you should prepare multiple primary keywords and assign them to each page.

Start from long- or mid-tail keywords

As explained earlier, targeting short-tail keywords from the very beginning is usually challenging. Short-tail keywords can generate a lot of traffic as their search volume is generally very high; however, the competition level to get a higher page rank is also high.

If your website is new, target long-tail keywords or mid-tail keywords first.

Prepare semantic keywords as secondary target keywords

As search engine crawlers are getting smarter, they value helpful information related to the keywords users search for.

In the SEO context, semantic keywords mean keywords or key phrases related to the target keyword.

To provide more meaningful information to users, it is good to use these keywords on top of the primary target keywords.

If you are an expert on the topic, you may naturally come up with semantic keywords, but your ideas may differ from what the users are looking for.

To identify semantic keywords efficiently, you can also use Search Engines besides the keyword planning tools.

For example, if your primary target keyword is "SEO Content Writing", type it in the Google search box. You'll see that the related keywords that users search for frequently are shown in the middle section of the search results page.

Identifying Semantic Keywords Using Google Search Engine

To know more about semantic keywords, check this article – Semantic Keywords: What They Are & How to Find Them.

Note: LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) Keywords

LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) Keywords were previously used in SEO content writing, and they are still helpful in identifying semantic keywords; however, using LSI keywords is not mandatory in recent SEO content writing.

LSI is a relatively old technology, and Google now applies various approaches to identify semantic keywords.

You can check this article to better understand the latest LSI status – What Are LSI Keywords & Why They Don‘t Matter.

5. Use the target keywords in SEO activities

The keyword research results are primarily used for on-page SEO, but they are also crucial for off-page SEO to define key sources for off-page SEO activities.

What’s next after keyword research?

On-Page SEO

For on-page SEO, once you set target keywords (primary and secondary), you need to optimize content using the keywords.

Steps to optimize content are different between single-page optimization and multiple-page optimization.

Single page optimization

For the single page optimization, you need to do keyword placement, which is strategical positioning of the target keywords in specific locations in the HTML document.

We'll explain how to strategically position the target keywords in the learning section — 9 Key Steps in SEO Content Writing for Individual Web Page.

Multiple page optimization

Suppose you optimize multiple pages, like optimizing the entire website. In that case, you need to do keyword mapping, which is strategically assigning target keywords to each web page before placing keywords on each page.

We'll explain keyword mapping in the learning section — Keyword Mapping and Clustering - Organize Multiple Pages.

Single-page keyword optimization and multiple-page keyword optimization

Off-Page SEO

The defined target keywords are crucial for setting directions for off-page SEO by guiding strategies for backlink building, content marketing, and social media campaigns.

They help identify relevant platforms for acquiring valuable backlinks and inform content creation for guest blogging and social posts, ensuring alignment with audience's interests.

Conclusion

Effective keyword research is essential for connecting your content with the right audience, ensuring your website is visible and relevant in search engine results.

By strategically selecting short-, mid-, and long-tail keywords based on competition and search volume, you can optimize both on-page and off-page SEO activities.

This approach not only enhances your website's discoverability, but also aligns with user intent, leading to higher engagement and conversions.

In the following learning sections, we'll explain how to optimize web page content using target keywords.


You can also learn this topic on Kindle. ClickAmazonKindle.

Tag: