Want to know how to do competitive keyword research in 2019?
You’ve come to the right place. Today, I’m teaching you how to do effective keyword research online and how to strategically each keyword to a page.
Watch the full videos now or read the article below.
What You’ll Learn:
- Keyword research:
- Prioritizing keywords:
- Targeting keywords in your content:
Keyword Research Phase 1: Finding Your Keywords
So you want to rank a web page? Okay, but keep in mind that you don’t just “rank” a page.
You have to rank it for a specific keyword.
Then, when people use a search engine to retrieve information based on that keyword, they’ll find your site sitting pretty towards the very top of the search engine results pages (SERPs).
That’s why any great content marketing and SEO effort doesn’t begin with an author typing out an article that’s relevant to a specific niche. It begins with SEO keyword research.
So how should you research keywords for SEO? What kinds of keywords should you look for? Where you should you begin?
Those are all great questions. Read on for the answers.
Keyword Research and Market Research
As with so many other marketing initiatives, keyword research begins with market research.
The good news is that you’ve probably already done much of the market research necessary for keyword research. That’s because it’s really the same thing as the research you included in your business plan.
The important thing here is that you do not begin keyword research with a keyword research tool, like Google Keyword Planner. If you do that, you’re putting the proverbial cart before the horse.
Why? Because you first have to understand the type of people in your target market and what they want before you’ll know what kinds of keywords they use when they’re searching for information related to your industry.
- For starters, identify the people in your target market. That includes describing them based on their demographics and interests.
- Next, segment your market by splitting it up into smaller sub-groups based on different needs, demographics, and interests.
Why do you need to segment your market? Because different people within your target market might search for different keywords.
For example, if you run an e-commerce site that sells blue jeans, young women are more likely to search for “boyfriend jeans” than men of any age.
Once you’ve identified your market segments, use 3×5 cards, Powerpoint slides, or whatever you prefer to identify the various segments you’ve just identified.
For example, one of your segments might be identified as follows:
- 22-39 years-old
- Earns $25,000 – $50,000 per year
- Works in construction
- Enjoys sports, beer
- Goes through lots of blue jeans every year because of his work
Do something like that with all of your segments.
Once you have your segments itemized, make a list of keywords that each segment would use in search.
You’ll likely find that there’s some overlap in search terms between many of your segments. That’s great because it means you can reach different segments with one keyword.
Start Your Keyword Research With Competitor Analysis
It’s often the case that you can generate your own success by borrowing ideas from others. Keyword research is no different.
Specifically, you can get a list of great keywords for your brand by looking at the keywords that your competitors are using. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools to help you do just that.
One of the most popular is SEMRush. Just visit the website (it runs in the cloud) and plug in the domain name of one of your competitors.
In response, SEMRush will provide a report with a whole lot of info about how that site is performing in search. If you scroll down, you’ll find a list of Top Organic Keywords that the site ranks for. Click View Full Report to see the full list.
So here’s what you do: find the keywords that your competitors are ranking for and you’re not. Then, reverse engineer their strategy.
Take all the keywords they’re ranking for and create your own content around them. Remember, to outrank the competition you want to make sure that the content you’re generating is superior to what your competitors have produced.
When looking at the terms they’re ranking for, you want to think specifically about:
- What terms are getting over 1,000 searches a month
- What terms have buying intent. These are the ones most important to your business, and we’ll discuss in more detail later on.
- Which are mid and lower funnel.
That should help you rank and get some more visitors to your site.
Keep in mind: SEMRush isn’t the only tool on the market for competitor analysis. You can also take a look at SpyFu. That’s a little cheaper because it doesn’t include some of the other bells and whistles that SEMRush has.
A few things to keep in mind as you conduct your research:
Find Keywords With Purchase Intent
This point applies if you’re selling stuff online. If you’re just doing content marketing to portray yourself as a thought leader in your space, you can probably move on.
One great way to reel in visitors and convince them to become paying customers is by optimizing your site for keywords with purchase intent.
What are keywords with purchase intent? They’re keywords that people use in search when they’re ready to buy.
People search differently when they’re looking to purchase than they do if they’re simply looking for more information. Because of that, you’ll need to use different keywords to target each those with those purchase intent.
People who are just browsing tend to use keywords that include the following:
- Top 10
On the other hand, people who are looking to make a purchase tend to use these keywords:
For example, if somebody searches for “cheap running shoes” or “where to buy running shoes,” you can be pretty sure that person is in the market for running shoes. That’s because he or she is looking for a bargain.
On the other hand, someone searching for “top 10 cheap running shoes” is probably just collecting information.
People who use search terms with purchase intent are at the lower end of the sales funnel. They’re ready to spend cash.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could get them to your site?
You can. Identify the purchase intent words and phrases that people in your market will likely use when searching for your products or services. Then, optimize your content for those keywords.
Once again, you’ll find that your keyword research tool will help. It’s likely you’ll find lots of keywords with purchase intent in the related keywords reports.
But Don’t Ignore People Higher in the Funnel
Although it’s great to identify keywords with purchase intent, you shouldn’t stop there. It’s also necessary to grab visitors who are higher in the sales funnel.
Usually, those people are searching for information. That’s why you should identify keywords that they’d use when just doing some window shopping or kicking a few tires.
Remember, you can always hit those folks with a remarketing campaign later on.
Use Keyword Research to Identify High-Volume Search Terms
Next up: identify high-volume search terms related to your business. Once again, you’ll need to enlist the aid of a tool.
If you’re using SEMRush, just plug in a search term that’s associated with your business. The tool will give you a wealth of info about that search term, including search volume.
What’s search volume? It’s the number of times that people use that keyword in search every month. A higher number is better because that means the keyword can generate more traffic to your site.
Find Related Search Terms
Here’s another way that your keyword research tool is your best friend: it can help you find related search terms.
Again, plug in a search term related to your niche. The tool will give you a bunch of facts and figures about that term.
Somewhere in the report, you’ll find a link to related search terms. Click that link and enjoy the riches that follow.
You’ll find keywords you hadn’t thought about. You’ll snag search terms your competitors aren’t using.
In many cases, you’ll find enough related keywords to keep your content calendar packed for months.
Use Keyword Research to Identify Long Tail Keywords
Here’s another great way to get ahead of the competition: optimize your content for long tail keywords.
If you’re unfamiliar with long tail keywords, they’re keywords that include four or more words. They can even include complete sentences.
For reference, any SEOs break keywords down into three categories: heads, bodies, and longtails.
- Heads are broad keywords that you usually don’t want to touch because they’re so difficult to rank. The keyword “boots” is an example of a head keyword.
- Bodies are heads with a little more specificity. For example: “mountain climbing boots.”
- Longtails are keywords that usually span several words. For example: “What are the best boots to wear when mountain climbing”
That long tail keyword is a perfectly reasonable question someone might type into the Google search bar.
If you’re selling hiking boots, you want to put your brand in front of people who search Google with that question. That’s why you should optimize your content for it.
Sit down and brainstorm with your team about long tail keywords that people in your target market might use in search. Also, get some ideas from your keyword research tool.
Pro-tip: as you can see with the example above, questions often make outstanding long tail keywords.
So do this: think about the kinds of questions people in your audience might ask about your business, products, or services. You’ll likely find lots of great long tail opportunities.
Keep in mind: though long tail keywords are generally easier to get traffic for, they usually have low search volume. They’re so specific that very few people use them every month.
So even if you successfully optimize for a single long tail keyword, don’t expect your traffic to explode overnight.
The solution to that problem, of course, is to optimize your content for lots of long tail keywords. Then you’ll see a nice bump in monthly unique visits.
Bodies are more difficult to rank for, but they have better search volume. They also pick up a lot of the longtail traffic because bodies are often part of a longtail keyword.
If you’re just getting started with keyword research and content marketing, it might be a good idea to optimize for a longtail just so you can get an idea of what’s involved. After that, move on to ranking for bodies.
One great way to find long tail keywords is by using SEMRush’s Keyword Magic Tool.
Once you’ve entered in a keyword and select “View Full Report” under phrase match keywords, you’ll be taken the Tool, which will show you different variations and combinations of the keywords.
Then, you can sort by questions to get a list of long tail variations that are being searched for.
For more on how to use the Keyword Magic Tool, read my full tutorial here.
Next, Use Your Own Data for Keyword Research
I’ve harped on using keyword research tools quite a bit here. However, there’s another tool that you can use for free: Google Search Console.
Google Search Console shows you the keywords that are already bringing people to your website. It will also show you which keywords have the highest CTRs.
You can do so by clicking on the Performance report inside Google Search Console, and searching by Queries.
Use that info to double-down on what works. Continue to optimize for successful search terms.
Once you’ve identified which keywords your competition is going after as well as the ones you’re ranking for, you can match the two up to find any keyword gaps.
Meaning, any keywords they have that you aren’t ranking for. Those are keywords you want to target, or work on optimizing if you have existing content for those keywords.
Look at Google Ads Data
Next, check out the keywords that competitors are using with Google Ads.
Specifically, find the top terms with the highest rate of return. Those are the keywords that should work for your website as well.
Remember: if people are paying to find customers with specific keywords, then it’s safe to say that those keywords are 1) popular and 2) effective.
In other words, you can let someone else spend money on your keyword research.
And once again, you’ll do that with your tool. Both SEMRush and SpyFu allow you to spy on competitor ads. You’ll not only see the copy that they’re running, you’ll also see which keywords they’re associating with the ads.
Write blog posts optimized for those keywords.
Phase 2: Prioritizing Your Keywords
By the time you get to this point, you’ll likely have identified so many keywords that you won’t know where to begin. Start by prioritizing them.
Begin with the “low-hanging fruit.” They’re keywords that have high search volume with low competition.
If you’re unclear about how to identify the competitiveness of a particular keyword, don’t worry. Your favorite keyword research tool will tell you which keywords are competitive and which ones should be easy to rank for.
After that, identify keywords that are likely to give you a high CTR in the SERPs. Remember: they can give you more traffic than higher volume keywords that get you a lower CTR.
Next, sort the keywords based on relevance. In this case, you’re looking for the search terms that are most relevant to your audience. Move those towards the top of the list.
After that, find keywords that are in line with your business goals. This is where you’ll prioritize your keywords based on search intent:
- Transactional – the visitor wants to make a purchase.
- Informative – the visitor is looking for a how-to guide, a walk-through, or some other info relevant to your business.
- Navigational – the visitor is looking for specific information about a product or service.
Combine and Rank Your Keywords
Next, go through your list of keywords.
This means you want to collect all the keywords you’ve found, both in your competitor research and your own data, and combine them into a massive sheet.
For each keyword, indicate whether or not you already have a landing page for it.
What will that do for you? It will identify gaps. You’ll see opportunities for content marketing that you hadn’t thought about in the past.
After that, create a sheet where you can track your keywords. Use your ranking system (see above) to assign them numbers as follows:
As a rule of thumb, you’ll use the keywords in the first two groups in hub pages. I’ll go over hub pages in a little more detail in the next section.
What about the keywords in the 51-100 range and beyond? Use them for content marketing. In other words, publish blog posts optimized for those search terms.
Alternatively, you can put them in a glossary. Some businesses include them in categories, subcategories, and even directories.
The whole point of this exercise is to make sure you put the right emphasis on your biggest search terms. Some terms have 50,000 – 100,000 visitors per month. Obviously, you’ll want to target those a little more
heavily than keywords that only get 200 hits per month.
Tag Your Keywords
You should also tag your keywords.
One way to do that is to tag them by bucket. Tag the first group (1-10) as Tier 1, the second group (11-50) as Tier 2, and the third group (51-100) as Tier 3.
There’s another way to tag your keywords, though: by segment.
What’s a segment? In this case, it’s sections of your website, such as the blog, various categories, etc.
Keyword Research Phase 3: Adding Keywords to Your Content
Next up: it’s time to add keywords to your content. Because once you’ve found all those keywords, you need to know exactly what to do with them.
One of the most important parts in all of digital marketing is knowing how to assign keywords to a specific webpage and understanding how and who you are targeting on a page through keywords.
That’s why I’m dedicating this next section to setting a specific strategy for all the keywords you just uncovered through competitive research.
Keep in mind, the complexity of the strategy will vary depending on the size of the website.
Start by asking the following question: are you going after one term or multiple terms on a specific page?
It’s an important question to answer because, usually, a blog post will target just a single term. That way, people can find the post when they use the keyword in search. Keep in mind, these pages will tend to rank better and for more terms over time.
A hub page, on the other hand, will usually rank for multiple terms. That’s because it’s usually a landing page that promotes your business model or a key topic.
Categories and product detail pages are typically optimized dynamically.
What does that mean? It means they’re using templates with keywords so that they rank for specific search terms.
Suppose you want to optimize several of your keywords with the current year. If you’re selling dress shoes, for example, you might have a category called “Best White Dress Shoes for 2019.”
In that case, the keyword “white dress shoes” is paired with the current year (“2019”). The template is “Best ____ for ____” and the website software puts the keyword in the first blank and the current year in the second blank.
That kind of work is going to require assistance from your development team. Make sure you get them involved and explain the various templates you’re interested in.
Keyword Assignments for Pages
Next, let’s focus specifically on optimizing website pages.
By pages I mean service pages or top-level pages. In other words, they’re not blog posts or other kinds of content marketing.
Let’s say you’re running a sports merchandising website and you’d like to optimize for the term “FIFA soccer ball.”
In that situation, you wouldn’t just target “FIFA soccer ball.” Instead, you’d also target 3-5 keywords related to “FIFA soccer ball.”
For example: “FIFA World Cup soccer ball,” “FIFA football,” “FIFA soccer balls 2019,” “best FIFA soccer ball,” and “official FIFA soccer ball.”
Do you notice a common theme throughout all of those keywords? It’s “FIFA soccer ball.”
The only exception is “FIFA football.” But keep in mind “football” is the European name for soccer.
Next, rank the keywords. You can rank them according to CTR, conversion rate, or traffic. The ranking method you choose depends on your business model.
Just keep in mind that keywords with the highest traffic aren’t necessarily your best friends. That’s especially true if they’re not getting you clicks and conversions.
Once you’ve ranked your keywords, work the top two or three keywords into your page title. In some cases, that’s easier said than done.
You should, however, always avoid keyword stuffing in the title.
Also, put those top keywords into the meta description and Facebook Open Graph tags.
If you’re unfamiliar with Facebook Open Graph tags, they’re markup that Facebook uses to extract important info (such as the title and description) about web pages.
Next, include the primary keyword in the H1 tag. In this case, the primary keyword is “FIFA soccer ball,” so that’s what should go in that tag.
The H1 tag, by the way, is usually the page title.
After that, put the top keywords into H2 tags.
If you’re unfamiliar with H2 tags, they’re typically used as subheaders. They break up content and make it scannable.
Of course, you’ll want to sprinkle your keywords throughout the content as well.
Once again, though: be very careful about keyword stuffing. Google doesn’t look favorably on that. Essentially, if the keyword doesn’t make sense in a given sentence or sounds forced, don’t use it. Always include keywords in a natural way that flows with the rest of the content.
Next, don’t forget to optimize your images with the primary keyword. Put it in the image file names, alt tags, and captions.
Update Internal Linking
Next, update your internal linking.
Specifically, find other pages on your site that reference one of the keywords you included on the page.
In the example above, you’d look for content on your site that references “FIFA soccer ball.” Then, you’d use that text as an anchor for a link back to the page you just created.
Once again, you’re associating that page with its primary keyword. That’s going to help it rank.
Also, if the page you just created is very important on your site, you’ll want to put a link to it in the footer. Of course, the anchor text for the link in the footer should be the primary keyword. In our example, that’s “FIFA soccer ball.”
Once you’ve optimized the content for your primary keywords and its related keywords, think about other ways that you can use the page to increase brand-name awareness and land more sales.
For example, you could create a campaign in Google Ads that uses those same keywords. Include ad copy that’s optimized for the keywords as well. Of course, you’d point the ads to the landing page that you just created.
And why not run Bing Ads with those same keywords as well?
Additionally, add some retargeting to the page. That way, people who visit it will see ads for your FIFA soccer balls all over cyberspace as they’re browsing around.
Maybe a few of them will come back and make a purchase.
Also, put an exit-intent popup on the page. Advertise a 10% discount relevant to the content. Capture the visitor’s email address and start a drip campaign.
Wrapping Up Keyword Research in 2019
One of the worst mistakes you can make in SEO is to not do keyword research. That’s because you’ll miss out on a wealth of opportunities that will bring visitors to your website.
Also, just a little bit of keyword research can give you enough ideas to keep you cranking out content for months.
Just make sure you’re enlisting the aid of one or more tools. It’s not something you should try to tackle without the aid of software.