Ask any SEO and they will tell you that keyword research is one of the fundamentals of any online marketing activity. The process of reviewing and identifying opportunities is pivotal to any search marketing project and will be the building block of any, and all online work, you go on to complete. However, understanding your opportunities and selecting the right keywords can be more difficult than it seems!
When you’re faced with groups of keywords that, on the surface, all appear valuable to you and your business, it can be challenging to understand which are the best choice and which are going to unlock the most opportunity for you and your website.
If you’ve ever found yourself stuck in the decision making stage of keyword research, or if you’re just not 100% sure you’ve made the right decisions, then you can review your keyword options against the criteria below to make sure you’re stepping in the right direction.
Making sure that your keywords are actually being searched for is always Step 1. This is generally the starting point for most people in their keyword research process. There are a number of tools available to support in finding keyword search volumes, with the most common being Google’s very own Keyword Planner. There are also paid tools available from providers such as SEMrush or Ahrefs.
When picking between multiple similar keywords, you will often be inclined to pick the option with the most searches per month, but you can use the steps below to make sure this is the right choice for you.
In the example below, we can see the difference in monthly searches between two (fairly similar) keywords.
Tip: Remember when searching for keywords do not let yourself be biased by how you would search e.g. mens’ leather coat rather than mens’ leather jacket.
If you operate in a popular vertical (such as fashion or electronics), then it’s very likely that the keywords with the most monthly searches will also be the most competitive. If you target keywords based solely on volume, then you will often find yourself competing with large brands with authoritative websites. You will also find yourself competing with a much higher number of websites who all want to rank well for the most popular terms.
It’s important that if you’re going to optimise your website based on a set of keywords that you give yourself the opportunity to rank. You have to be realistic in what you can and can’t rank for and if your website doesn’t have much authority (yet) then you may find more success targeting lower volume keywords with less competition.
An often overlooked aspect of keyword selection is reviewing intent. Now, when it comes to this stage of the process, it can take time, but it’s absolutely vital.
There are two stages to this process; reviewing the intent of your keywords and reviewing the intent of the search results (SERPs) for your keywords.
Reviewing the intent of a keyword is important for making sure it doesn’t just look good on the surface, and that it actually matches the intent of your web-page. This involves a quick common sense check to make sure that the keyword is suited to your offering and your location (if you are location specific).
Let’s take ourselves as an example:
We are a digital marketing agency based in Hertfordshire, working with clients located throughout the UK. Amongst our range of services, we offer a range of SEO activities (and other marketing services of course). We want to target our SEO service page with the best possible SEO related terms.
Of the three keywords below which would you say are relevant?
Hopefully from a quick glance you can rule out SEO agency Glasgow due to the location, and SEO consultant due to the intent of the search not matching our offering.
This step can take longer to complete but it is becoming more important than ever. Google is an ever-changing platform with the primary goal of serving users with the most relevant results for their query. As part of that process, Google will develop and restructure search results over time to provide the results that are most likely to satisfy the query. (You can also read about this in our post on SERP changes).
As a result of this, keywords that on paper appear to be perfect for your page, actually return keywords that aren’t at all suitable. This means that your chances of ranking in top positions reduces dramatically.
When categorising SERPs by intent, we use the following categories:
These are product or service oriented results which provide users pages that they are able to convert from.
These are information based results such as blog articles & how-to guides.
These are SERPs that contain a combination of transactional and informational results.
You may think that you will be able to tell me what SERP to expect based on only the keyword, but you would be surprised how often this isn’t the case.
Let’s take the keyword ‘social media management tool’ as our next example.
Think again! Let’s take a look at the actual SERPs below (click the image to see a larger version):
As we can see above, only 1 of 10 results (including the Featured Snippet) have a transactional intent, and therefore if you’re trying to rank your own transactional page for this query then your chances are far slimmer than you may have thought.
Last and not least is a review of the SERP layout. This task can go hand-in-hand with your SERP review, and the intention is to analyse how conducive the SERP is to organic performance.
Again, using the example above, we can see the following:
All of the above can detract attention from your organic result, making it difficult to gain quality traffic from this keyword.
Other SERP features to look out for which could take attention from your results are:
If a keyword SERP includes a lot of the above features, then this can reduce your clickthrough rate for your target keywords even if you have top organic positions.
The next time you find yourself stuck between keywords, use the criteria above to refine your list and select the terms that are going to get you the strongest ROI.
If you need support across your SEO projects then get in touch with the team at Wagada to find out how our SEO specialists can help you.
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