The purpose of Keyword Research
Keyword research is an essential part of any SEO or paid campaign. It gives you the ability to understand what keywords your target audience is not only searching for but also how often, we can also find related keywords to the ones we want to rank for. These not only help us cast a wider net in the SERPs by adding in keywords that are topically relevant that we want to rank for, but they can also give us ideas for additional content to produce.
When getting content ideas from keywords this way, topics will often be closely related to each other. This gives us opportunities for internally linking to other posts and important pages across our site. If you’re not familiar with internal links and their benefits, we would suggest checking out this post from our friends at Moz.
In this post, we’ll show you how we like to do keyword research, and how it can be utilized, and how to track the fruits of your labor.
How do you do Keyword Reseach?
While it is important to do keyword research to execute any SEO strategy, it is also equally important to do it WELL. Poor keyword research practices can have serious consequences in the long term. For example, if you’re consistently targetting keywords solely based on their high volume searches, but don’t consider how competitive they could be, you might never break into favorable rankings for those keywords because a large competitor might already be dominating those rankings. This means you’ll never rank for the keywords you’ve targetted, and you will be sad because you will feel like your efforts have been wasted.
There are probably at least a dozen different processes using several different tools for doing keyword research you could find online. We have tried a few, but the process we use now is the one we like best. We also prefer using Ahrefs as our primary tool for this task. First of all, we would like to point out that we use keyword research for both existing content, and for building new content.
KWR for exisiting content
When we do keyword research for existing content, we’re looking at existing pages and the keywords they are ranking for. More often than not (if your content is written well and engaging), pages will rank for several keywords. When this happens, using a report in Ahrefs we can look at how many keywords a particular page ranks for and also what positions that page ranks for with each of those keywords.
The ideal pages you want to do this keyword research for are going to be your “money” pages, pages that drive sales to your business. And other pages that drive significant traffic to your website.
Low Hanging Fruit
So once you have identified the pages you want to target for this keyword research, the next thing you want to do is look at the keywords that those pages rank for in positions 11-20. We call these “Low Hanging Fruit”, the idea being that they will require little work to get into more favorable positions, and thus more traffic to the page. You’ll want to start making a list of these keywords, but make sure you’re choosing keywords that meet a good balance between search volume, competition, and search intent.
Once you have a list of keywords for those pages in positions 11-20, it’s now time for some on-page optimizations. There are a number of things you do here for these such as increasing keyword frequency, changing titles/metas to include the keyword you’re targeting or even adjusting alt tags in your images. Doing these actions are likely to help you jump ahead into more favorable positions and get more traffic to those pages.
If the page you want to rank is still struggling, this is a sign to look at any technical issues that might holding it back, if you should get more links to the page, and see what your competitors could be doing.
KWR for New pages
When we do keyword research for new pages, usually blog posts, we go about doing keyword research in a slightly different way. Since we are trying to find keywords for new posts, we use the keywords explorer tool in Ahrefs. Using this tool we can search some of the main keywords we want to use in our post, these will usually be the short tail keywords about your main topic. Once we enter these into keywords explorer, we can get a number of different reports showing us things like search volume, keyword difficulty (how competitive that keyword is), and a number of additional keyword ideas. These include search terms that also use the keyword you’ve entered into the tool, terms that are questions using your keyword, and more.
We like to choose keywords for this that meet similar criteria in the way we choose keywords for existing content. Keywords that meet a balance of search volume, intent, and search intent. Once we have about 3-5 targeted keywords for a new post, we then begin the writing process and make sure that these keywords are utilized throughout the post in titles/metas, content, & image alt tags.
Using your Keyword Research
As we’ve described above, you can use your keyword research for generating new content and help existing content with rankings. But it can also be used for paid campaigns. Google Ads can help get you to the top of search results for your target keywords quickly, and if you utilize the keyword research you’re already doing for your content it can help choose the keyword themes you want to target for your ad campaigns. We’ll show you some of the ways you can best utilize your keyword research.
There is no magic number here for how many times you should include a keyword in any post. That being said, there are ways for you to get an idea of how often you should be including keywords and where. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using a SEO content analysis tool. These tools will automatically scan your content and give you guidelines on how to make your content more search friendly. For the content you’re writing, you put in your main target keyword (some tools might allow you to use more), and then the tool will give you a checklist of items that you have gotten right and recommendations for things you could improve. There are a number of tools that can do this, some better than others. But some of the most popular we know about are Clearscope, SEMrush, and Rank Math.
While these tools are helpful by helping you save time and encourage you to use best practices in your content, we believe that no one should solely rely on the recommendations of these tools to determine how well you’re content is going to do. Just because you might get all green marks in the tool, does not mean it is up to the standard that Google wants to serve its users in the top results.
We think the best thing you can do is take a look at the SERP’s you’re trying to rank in, observe what the top 3 results are doing for each, and emulate (NOT COPY) that to the best of your ability. Now while this method is time consuming, it’s the most effective because Google is telling us what content it likes the best for the search term you want to rank for. Once you’ve taken some notes on what these competitors are doing well, it’s now up to you to do it even better.
If you’re simultaneously running PPC campaigns while investing in SEO to gain organic traffic there is literally no reason not to use your keyword research. Using your keyword research for paid campaigns is incredibly important for making sure your investment is working to it’s full potential. When you have the data available to you to it makes it much easier to focus your campaigns. By this I mean you can not only set your keyword themes to what is going to be best suited for your business, but you can also A/B test which campaigns focused on certain keywords are performing better for you.
When using your keyword research for paid ads, we would recommend bidding on some of the very competitive keywords that you might have come across. This can help you get some of the traffic for those searches more quickly, instead of waiting a long time for your content to climb rankings and get that traffic organically. Something big you’ll want to consider here is the cost per click associated with these keywords. Since the more competitive a keyword is, correspondingly so is the cost when advertising with a platform like Google Ads. Thankfully Ahrefs does provide an average CPC dollar amount associated with each keyword that can help marketers be informed and better utilize their budgets with the keywords they are selecting.
Tracking Your Efforts
All of the tactics and work we’ve talked about in this post don’t mean anything if you can’t show your boss or a client the results you’ve gotten by investing resources into this work. Thankfully there are quite a few tools we can rely on out there for this exact purpose, we’re going to discuss just a few though; Rank Tracker in Ahrefs, Google Search Console, and Google Ads report.
We’ve talked about Ahrefs quite a bit in this post, but that’s because it’s proven to be quite a powerful tool and one we at Orbital Marketing rely on quite heavily. Another one of its tools we haven’t discussed yet is the Rank Tracker. What this does is allow us to add keywords that we want to rank for and track to one of our sites and then monitor our keyword rankings for those specified keywords. Using this tool we can easily look at historical ranking data to see position changes for each keyword, average positions for all tracked keywords, and much more. We prefer using this tool as it makes it easy to not only look at all of our organic keyword data in one place but also allows us to easily download the data and create reports to provide to clients.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a free tool from Google, it has a number of uses but in relation to keyword research we can use the performance report to look at additional keywords we might be ranking for but don’t appear in other tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush. We can see how many clicks, impressions, position, and CTR our site has gotten based on the queries GSC has picked up. While the data in GSC does give a broader view of what we are ranking for, its position data is an average of your ranking not the actual current position. As you can see from the screenshot below it says that our agency site is in position 12.2 for our brand term “orbital marketing”, when at the time of this writing we are in position 3.
So while using GSC for ranking data is something we would advise against, we still find it useful to see the overall progression of keywords your site might be ranking for. Further, if you might come across keywords you like that you’re ranking for in GSC but not seeing in a tool like Ahrefs, which can then give you opportunities to start optimizing pages for some of these keywords and hopefully get into favorable rankings.
The last platform we’re going to discuss here is a pretty obvious one if you’re running a PPC campaign, but it’s quite useful so we’re going to include it here. It’s the campaign reports Google Ads. This will give you the data you need to determine if your PPC campaign is performing how you would like it to. You can look at data such as impressions, clicks, location actions, calls, and conversions, giving you a comprehensive view of the campaign’s performance.
Now while you can’t see data like search volume or ranking position here, this can data can give you valuable information on if you’re targeting your ad spend on the right keywords. If your campaign is performing at or above your expectations, then this is a great way to easily check that put this data into a report. Thankfully you can connect your Google Ads account to your Google Analytics, making these reports much easier to generate. Clients & managers love to see that money is being well spent, so you’ll want to make sure that they see positive results from this if you have them.
If you’re less than happy with the results you’re seeing from your campaign, then there are reports you can use to better target your campaign. Specifically the search terms report & keyword themes, in this report you can see all of the search terms where your ads have appeared and how many clicks your ad got for each search term. Using this information, you adjust or build a new campaign with new keyword themes that more specifically target search terms where you see your ads getting clicks.
We hope this helps
We hope that you can use what you’ve read about in our post today. If you’re new to this space we hope you’ll be able to use what you’ve learned in your own SEO practices moving forward. If you’re a seasoned SEO, we hope you still got some benefit out of what you’ve read. Please feel free to leave any comments with questions or criticisms, both are welcome!