This is the best guide to keyword research in 2021.
In this comprehensive guide, I'll cover:
- Search keywords
- How to choose the right keywords
- How to use keyword research tools
- Advanced keyword research tips
- Much more
So if you want a higher rank on Google and more traffic, you'll love this guide. Let's start.
Basics of keyword research
What is keyword research?
Keyword research is the process of finding the words and phrases that people use in search engines, especially Google, with the ultimate goal of optimizing the content around those terms and ranking them for those terms in search engines.
Why is keyword research important to SEO?
Keyword research affects all SEO work you do, including content topic search, on-page SEO, exposure and promotion.
Therefore, keyword research is usually the first step in any SEO campaign. In other words, keywords are like a compass to your SEO - they tell you where to go and how you are progressing.
As a bonus, keyword research helps you identify the thoughts, fears and desires of your target market. Keyword research gives you insight into what customers are looking for ... and the exact words and phrases they use.
In other words, keyword research is the market research of the 21st century.
How to find keyword ideas
Now is the time to get to the heart of keyword research. Specifically, it’s time to create a keyword list. In this article, I will show you tried and tested strategies with which you can come up with a LOT of keyword ideas.
Let's dive straight in.
Think of a list of topics
Here you will find topics that interest your target audience. Let’s say you run a digital marketing agency. Well, you may be wondering, "What topics are people looking for related to my business?"
Some of the topics that come to mind could include things like:
- Social media
- Email advertising
- Visit the site
- Content Marketing
Note: These topics are not keywords. These are general arguments that you will use later to determine your keywords.
At this moment you are learning to work ...
Wikipedia is an overlooked keyword exploring the gold mine.
Where else can you find articles curated by thousands of industry experts ... all organized in neat little categories?
Here's how you could use Wikipedia to find keyword ideas. First, go to Wikipedia and enter a general keyword such as marketing. This will take you to a Wikipedia article on this broad topic. Then find the "content" section on the page. This section contains the subtopics on this page.
Some of the subtopics listed here are exceptional keywords that would otherwise be difficult to find. In this case, you will find words like "social media", "B2C marketing", "public relations" and so on.
You can also click some internal links on the page to see an index of other closely related items.
For example, in marketing, we send a link to "Integrated Marketing Communications" in the "Promotion Blend" section. When you click this link, you’ll see that the Integrated Marketing Communication page summary has even more keywords you can add to your list, and that’s very cool.
Searches related to
Another fun way to search for keywords is to check the "Related Searches" section at the bottom of Google's search results.
Let’s say one of your topics was “online marketing”. Well, we'd like to find that keyword. And scroll to the bottom of the page. You will find a list of 7 keywords that are closely related to your search term.
As with Google's proposal, there are keywords coming directly from Google. So you don’t have to guess whether they are popular or not. Google literally says, "Countless people are searching for these keywords."
Here I’ve a pro tip for you: click on one of the 'Search related' keywords.
Then scroll to the bottom of THESE results. This will give you a new list of related keywords. Rinse and repeat.
Search keywords on Reddit
Your target audience is probably in a hangout with Reddit. That means you can usually find a lot of keyword ideas on this platform.
Therefore: Let's say you have a website that sells organic cat food.
We're going to Reddit. So find a broad topic that interests your target audience ... and something related to what you're selling, such as pets.
So choose a sub-credit where your audience is likely to hang out, in which case we'll pick the first one called "pets".
Finally, pay attention to the subjects that are frequently commented on, for example they say: "I just bought my first pet, I wanted to say that somewhere" with about 400 responses. In this case, we will add 'first pet' to the list of keyword suggestions.
Pro tip: "Keyworddit" It is a free SEO tool that searches Reddit for words and phrases that people are using ... and ranks those phrases based on monthly search volume.
Use templates for Google and YouTube
Now that you have a list of topics, scan them all into Google and see what terms Google suggests. These are great keywords you can add to your list.
Because when Google suggests a keyword, YOU KNOW that a lot of people are looking for it.
However, you don’t have to stop with Google Suggest, keyword suggestions can also be found in Bing and YouTube Suggest.
Find popular topics on forums
Forums are like active focus groups live 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The easiest way to find forums where your target audience is together is to use these Google search strings:
- "Keyword Forum"
- "Keyword" + "forum"
- "Keyword" + "forum"
- "Keyword" + "character"
When you find a forum, pay attention to how the forum is divided into sections - each of these sections is a potential keyword to add to your list.
If you want to go deeper, you can take a look at some of the topics on the forum and find other specific topics that your target audience is struggling with, that’s great, right?
Keyword research tools
Can you find keywords without the tool? Apparently. But the tool makes the whole process MUCH easier. Here are the keyword research tools that I personally use and recommend.
Google's keyword planner
Google's Keyword Planner is the most trusted source of keyword information on the web.
This is because, unlike most other tools, the information obtained by the Keyword Planner comes directly from Google.
The big downside to GKP is that it's designed to help people with their Google campaigns ... not SEO.
However, you can still use GKP to get keyword suggestion lists and search for queries that allow for many queries.
This new tool is like Google Trends ... only better.
Exploding topics surf the web in search of rising terms. And prepare these conditions. You can even sort the list of topics by category.
Keywords everywhere could be my favorite keyword research tool. Why?
Because it shows you keyword ideas from various places on the web (including Bing, YouTube and Google Analytics).
All you need to do is install the Chrome extension. The next time you visit one of the sites that integrate keywords everywhere, you'll see a list of keyword suggestions ... and information about each keyword.
Ubersuggest was the first Google suggestion scraper I used. Last year, the tool was heavily updated and refurbished.
Ubersuggest still generates keyword suggestions based on Google search suggestions. It also provides information about each keyword (such as search volume, CPC, keyword difficulty, and more).
If you want to invest in a paid keyword tool, I highly recommend SEMrush. This is because SEMrush saves time. Here is why…
Instead of throwing random keywords into the tool, SEMrush displays the exact keywords for which the site is already ranked.
So if you have a site that you compete with on Google, put it in SEMrush and steal all their keywords.
Most people think of Ahrefs as a tool for making links. But few people know that Ahrefs also has a REALLY good keyword tool.
The great thing about Ahref’s “Keyword Researcher” is that you get a huge amount of useful information about each keyword.
This can help you decide if it is a useful keyword.
The only complaint about the Keyword Researcher is that it's not okay to come up with new keyword ideas. It usually generates keywords that are just simple versions of the keyword I typed.
However, enlarging a single term cannot do much better than the functions of the Ahrefs keyword researcher.
How do you know if a keyword is too competitive to be ranked?
A good question to ask. If you choose a highly competitive keyword, it can be difficult to switch from a third party Google.
However, if you find a keyword without a lot of competition, you have a good chance of beating the top 3.
This describes how to identify SEO issues for a keyword here.
Long queues are (usually) less competitive
If your site is brand new, or if you want to focus 100% on non-competing keywords. So you definitely want to target keywords with a long tail. I will explain ...
Most people in SEO (myself included) divide their keywords into three main categories: head, body, and long tail.
Here's an overview of each keyword type:
1) Head keywords
These are usually one-word keywords with high search volume ... and competition. Examples of key terms are keywords like “insurance” or “vitamins”. Because a searcher’s intent is everywhere (someone looking for “insurance” might be looking for a car insurance quote, a list of life insurance companies, or a word definition) usually doesn’t translate key terms best.
2) Body keywords
Body keywords are 2-3 phrases that get a decent search volume (at least 2000 searches per month), but are more specific than the main keywords. Keywords like “life insurance” or “ordering vitamins online” are examples of keywords for the body. These almost always have less competition than the main terms.
3) Keywords with a long tail
Long tail keywords are long sentences with more than 4 words that are usually very specific. Phrases like “Affordable Life Insurance for the Elderly” and “Order Vitamin D Capsules Online” are examples of long-tailed keywords. These terms alone don’t get a lot of search (usually about 10-200 searches per month). But when you add them up, most web searches are a long line. And because they don’t get a lot of searches, long-tailed terms aren’t usually very competitive.
There is no best category of keywords to focus on. All three have their pros and cons. But when it comes to competition, long lines tend to be the least competitive.
Authority of sites on Google’s first page
Here's a quick way to estimate a keyword's level of competition. First, search for a keyword on Google. Then look at the places sorted on the first page.
If the first page consists of very high authority websites (like Wikipedia) you may want to remove that keyword from the list, but if you see a handful of smaller blogs on the first page, that's a sign that you've tried to also go to the first page.
Keyword difficulties in keyword tools
The vast majority of keyword research tools have some sort of keyword competition feature, including KWFinder, Ahrefs, Moz Pro, and SEMrush.
We recently tested a few. We have found that all keyword problems increase based on a combination of page authority and domain authority. However, they all tend to make completely different keyword difficulty estimates.
Briefly? If your favorite Keyword Tool includes the keyword troubleshooting feature, keep doing it. Maybe it isn't perfect. But they usually give you a general idea of how competitive a ranking keyword is.
Believe it or not, there is even a tool for keyword problems: CanIRank.
I like that this tool doesn’t just spit out a number of keyword issues. Instead, the level of keyword competition is assessed by your site. For example, I recently posted the keyword “SEO” on CanIRank and the tool looked at the competition against the authority of my site on the first page of Google. And that gave me “Ranking Odds” 90%, very useful.
How to choose a keyword
Now that you have a keyword list, how do you know which one to choose? Unfortunately, there are no tools to tell you, "This is the best keyword on your list." Instead, you need to adjust each keyword to a handful of different factors. Then choose the keyword that best suits your business.
As you might expect, I will show you exactly that in this article.
It's pretty easy. The more people searching for keywords, the more visitors they can generate. The question is: what is a "good" search volume?
Short answer: it depends.
Long answer: the number of searches varies greatly in different sectors.
For example, a keyword with a long tail in a fitness niche (for example: "best abdominal exercises") will receive 10,000 to 100,000 searches per month, a keyword with a long tail in a B2B space, such as digital marketing ( for example: "best SEO software") gets 100-1,000 monthly searches.
So you want to figure out what “big” and “small” search volume is in your niche. Then choose keywords based on what is “normal” for your industry.
It's no secret that the number of Google search engines clicking on an unpaid search result has declined. And no wonder why.
With selected snippets, you don't have to click anything to get a response, and Google now has search results with more ads than ever.
The purpose of the research only gives you part of the story. To get a full estimate of how many clicks you receive from Google's top page rank, you also need to estimate your organic click-through rate.
Here are two easy ways ...
You can first view the SERPs (search results pages) for your keyword.
If you see a lot of things on the first page (like the featured snippet and other Google ads) then you know you won't get many clicks ... even if you rank first.
Second, you can use the tool, both Ahrefs and Moz pro estimate the organic CTR, and with all of the above, I wouldn't avoid a keyword just because it has a low CTR. If many people search for this term, it may still be worth it.
If your site is new (or doesn’t have many links yet), focus on low competitive conditions first. Once your site gains credibility, you can focus on more competitive activities. And because I didn’t have a lot of sites to compete with, I was able to attract organic traffic in just a few weeks. This has helped me achieve SEO success from the very beginning.
CPC (cost-per-click) is a measure that answers an important question: are people searching for this keyword actually spending money? So, yeah, the search volume is fun and everything. However, if this keyword has no commercial purpose, it doesn't make sense to target that term.
In addition, you can sometimes get a return on investment with a keyword that doesn’t get many searches ... if your CPC is high enough.
For example, one of my target keywords is “link building services,” and according to Ahrefs, that keyword receives 400 queries per month.
So if I were to just look at the search volume, I would say “This is a terrible keyword”. Therefore, it is very important that you ALSO look at your CPC. The CPC for this keyword is $ 25.00.
This means that people spend $ 25 every time someone searching for that keyword clicks on an ad. So even if the search volume for this term isn't that large, CPC more than replaces it.
Here's how likely someone looking for a keyword is to become a customer. Yes, the CPC will help you understand this. But it doesn't tell the whole story. For example, a few weeks ago I came across the keyword "backlinks checker". On the face of it, this is a great keyword.
It gets a decent search from 1k to 10,000 and has a CPC of $ 4.01.
It's not that competitive either. So this keyword is winning, right?
Well not really.
You know, Backlinko is an SEO company. This means that I am not selling backlink analysis tools. So even if I got first place among the "backlink checkers" it would be of no use to me. Compare this with a keyword like "YouTube SEO". The CPC of this keyword is only $ 2.22.
Ultimately, we want to see if your keyword is growing fast ... or dying slowly. And the best way to do it? Google trends. For example, last year I thought of the keyword: "SEO with voice search".
But I decided to add this keyword to Google Trends before pulling the trigger.
As you can see, interest in this keyword is growing rapidly.
Advanced tips and strategies
Now that you’ve learned the basics of keyword research, it’s time to discuss some interesting and advanced things.
Specifically, I’ll reveal some tactical tips for exploring keywords that you can use right away. So, without further ado, let’s dive straight into the tips.
Let’s say you found the keyword PERFECT. And you are among the top 3 for this term. You're almost done, aren't you?
Actually ... not really.
It turns out that Barnacle SEO can give you even more grip on this keyword. Barnacle SEO is the practice of using the authority of other websites to evaluate on the first page.
Once you find a good keyword, we recommend that you include as much space as possible on the first page. First, create content on this topic on your site. Then post keyword-optimized content to authoritative sites like YouTube, LinkedIn, Medium, and more.
Search Keyword GSC
The Google Search Console is the gold mine of keywords. Here's how it works:
First, sign in to your GSC account and go to the "Performance Report", here you can see the terms that get the most clicks in Google Search. You can then sort your list by "Impressions" to see keywords that generate many impressions ... but not necessarily clicks. Finally, create optimized content around the same keyword.
Why is this a strong strategy? These are the keywords you know people are looking for. You also know that Google sees your site as a good match in search results. For that particular keyword, you need to post super targeted content (or optimize existing content around that keyword) and that’s it.
Optimize content around synonyms and related keywords
Yes, you want to optimize your page around your main keyword. But don't stop there. By increasing search engine traffic to your site, you can optimize synonyms and closely related terms. I'll show you how it works, using a real example.
Earlier this year I posted a message on my blog, my target keyword for this page was "more website traffic". But I also made sure to throw in versions of this keyword, for example: "attract more visitors". In the end, I was able to get into the top 3 for my main keyword and many keyword variations.
Ahrefs Content Gap
Content Gap has quickly become one of my favorite features in Ahrefs.
This is how it works: as with SEMRush, you can use Ahrefs here to see the exact keywords another site is ranking for. And with Ahrefs Content Gap you can take this kind of competitive analysis to the next level.
Therefore: go to the empty space in the content of Ahrefs. And enter 2-3 competing sites.
This shows you the keywords that at least two of your competitors rank in ... but not all.
And as more competitors fall under these terms, you know you also have a lot of chances of finishing in the top 10.
Analyze keywords based on Searcher Intent
In other words, ask yourself: what does anyone looking for this keyword want to see? Do they want to buy? For information? Or are they looking for a specific page (such as a login page)?
For example: I recently posted a post that is number 2 for the keyword “BuzzStream”.
While this keyword has about 2,000 searches per month, this message gets only 194 monthly visitors. What's happening? "BuzzStream" turned out to be a navigation keyword. This means that most people searching for this keyword are looking for a site ... not information on BuzzStream.
So, yeah, that keyword looked great at first glance. However, since it is a navigation keyword, MUCH AS it clicks anything other than the first result. This is why this message gets so little traffic.
Therefore, I recommend that you consider the purpose of your keyword search.
If your search purpose is "browsing," you may want to avoid this term ... even if it has a high CPC and monthly search volume. (As you just saw, this is a lesson I had to learn the hard way)
However, if the purpose of the search engine is "informative", the optimized content around this term may be BIG.
Look for "shoulder keywords"
Most people ONLY optimize their site around keywords that are closely related to what they are selling. And this is a BIG mistake for two main reasons:
1) Product keywords are generally super competitive.
2) Your potential customer searches thousands of keywords without looking for those keywords you are selling.
And if you can reach out to a customer with great content, chances are they’ll buy it from you later.
For example, as I said, I run an SEO company.
However, I do not optimize every page on my website according to commercial terms. (For example, "SEO training" and "SEO courses").
Instead, I rank according to the keywords my clients search for when they are not looking for SEO training. (Keywords such as: "link building", "SEO on page" and "SEO tools").
I call these keywords "shoulder keywords."
These keywords are not directly related to what you are selling. But there are keywords that your customers are looking for. They are worth checking out.
What about another example?
Let's say you have an E-Commerce site that sells basketball hoops. Obviously, you want to optimize some of your pages by using terms like "buy basketball hoop online".
But don't stop there.
After all, someone interested in buying a basketball hoop can also search for:
- How to Take a Better Free Throw
- Highlights of the dunk
- How you are recruited by college scouts
- Nutrition for basketball players
- How to Improve a Vertical Jump
So you want to create content around these "shoulder keywords" as well.
I hope you enjoyed my new keyword research guide. And now I want to hear from you. Which tip from today's guide will you try first? Want to try shoulder keywords? Or maybe you want to optimize trending keywords.