How To Do Keyword Research in 2018
I’m sure there’s no need to waste time persuading you that keyword research is one of the highest return SEO activities that is essential for your marketing success.
There’s also no shortage of great articles that give you very detailed instructions as to executing a professional keyword research, ranking high for thousands of targeted search terms and vastly improving your traffic from Google. But here’s an interesting observation from NETMonster.co.uk: each of these guides will give you a somewhat different set of instructions. Not that any of them is advising you wrong, it’s just there’s no universal approach to executing keyword research.
It will vary based on:
- Your website (authority, number of pages, quality of content, etc);
- Your goals and objectives (branding, exposure, traffic, leads, sales);
- Your budget, resources and deadlines;
- Your industry and competitive landscape
This is why you might find it hard to relate to a random step-by-step guide that you stumble upon. So we at NETMonster.co.uk are going to take a different route and give you a keyword research framework that can be easily adjusted to whatever your goals and resources are. And we guarantee that the tactics and methods described below will vastly improve your traffic from Google. At least we’ve grown search traffic to this very blog by 2.4x in one year by doing it:
1. Start with seed keywords
Seed keywords are the foundation of your keyword research. They define your niche and help you identify your competitors. If you already have a product or business that you want to promote online, coming up with seed keywords is as easy as describing that product with your own words or brainstorming how other people might search for it.
For example, let’s say you’re launching an online store with GoPro accessories. The Google searches (keywords) that you would first think of are:
- GoPro accessories;
- gadgets for GoPro;
- GoPro add-ons.
That’s a no-brainer, right?
But what if you’re looking to start an affiliate marketing website, and you have no idea which niche to pick or which products to promote? The challenge of “picking a niche” deserves a big and detailed guide of its own. But generally, there are two ways to approach this:
1. “Monetisation first” approach
We start from exploring available monetisation methods. Pick a product or an offer that you like. And then think of search queries that people might be using to find it on Google. For example, Amazon has an extremely popular affiliate program. So all you need to do is browse their website until you discover a product (or a category of products) that you’re willing to promote.
Another option is to scout affiliate marketplace sites like ClickBank or CJ, that connect product owners with affiliates.
And finally, just review the products and services that you’re using yourself and see if you can become an affiliate.
2. “Niche down” approach
We can start with a super broad keyword and niche down until we see an interesting opportunity. For example, we are going to pick “music” as my super broad niche. Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer tool gives me almost 5 million keyword ideas for that seed keyword:
In order to “niche down,” we need to focus on longer and more specific keywords that have the word “music” in them. So we will use the “Words” filter to narrow down that huge list of keyword ideas to those with exactly 4 words.
And here’s what we were able to find:
- “music making software free” — Being an ex-DJ, I know there’s a ton of software for making music. So I could start a review site and cover all the latest releases and updates.
- “game of thrones music” — People want to download music they hear in movies, TV series, TV shows, etc. And given that new TV content is released regularly, this could be a fun niche.
- “gifts for music lovers” — I’m sure a lot of famous music bands and leading music labels have a ton of merchandise for their fans to buy. Not to mention musical instrument brands like Gibson, Fender, etc. They must have some affordable gift options too.
- “music games for kids” — Being a father of an 8-month-old kid, I would totally play some fun music games with him.
These niche ideas are obviously far from perfect, but hey, I spent no more than 5 minutes to find them. Invest a little bit more time and we’ll inevitably stumble upon something awesome for you.
2. Generate keyword ideas
So you have your seed keywords figured out. But that’s only the tip of the keyword research iceberg. The next step is to generate a mammoth list of relevant keyword ideas, while also getting a good understanding of what people in your niche are searching for in Google.
There are at least four good ways to do it.
1. See what keywords you already rank for
If you own a website that’s been around for a while, you should already be ranking in Google for a few hundred keywords. Knowing what they are is a perfect way to kick-start your keyword research. A good source of this information is a report called “Search Analytics” in Google Search Console:
Search Console shows your average position for each of the keywords you rank for and how many impressions and clicks this brings you. However, they don’t show the monthly search volume and you’re limited to 1000 keywords only.
If you need more data, you can try “Organic Keywords” report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer tool:
2. See what keywords your competitors are ranking for:
The chances are, your competitors have already performed all the tedious keyword research work for you. So you can research the keywords that they rank for and cherry-pick the best ones. If you don’t know who your competitors are, just put your seed keywords into Google and see who ranks on the front page. Let’s do that with a seed keyword that I discovered earlier, “gifts for music lovers.” I see an interesting website ranking on the front page, uncommongoods.com.
Sometimes even a single competitor can supply you with enough keyword ideas to keep your SEO team busy for months. But if you’re hungry for more, you can go to “Competing domains” report to find more sites like your competitor.
And we’ve just closed the “competitive research loop”:
- Put your seed keyword into Google and see who ranks on top;
- Plug their site into Ahrefs to see their best keywords;
- Find more relevant websites via the “Competing domains” report;
- Go back to either step 1 or 2.
The trick to almost unlimited keyword ideas is to repeat this process over and over.And don’t neglect tapping into related industries. You might discover a lot of great keywords that don’t necessarily relate to whatever you’re offering but can still bring very targeted visitors to your website.
3. Use keyword research tools
Good competitor research is often enough to fill your spreadsheet with a ton of relevant keyword ideas. But if you’re one of the leaders in your niche, that strategy is not quite feasible for you. You have to be looking for some unique keywords that none of your competitors are targeting yet. And the best way to do it is by using a decent keyword research tool. Luckily, there’s no shortage of them on the market and we use all of them:
Regardless of the tool we choose, there’s no preferred workflow for finding great keyword ideas. Just enter your seed keywords and play with the reports and filters until you stumble upon something cool. Most tools will pull their keyword suggestions from the following sources:
- scraping keyword ideas directly from Google Keyword Planner;
- scraping Google auto-suggest;
- scraping “similar searches” in Google.
These methods are great, but they can rarely give you more than a couple hundred suggestions. For example, UberSuggest shows only 316 keyword ideas for “content marketing.” There are also advanced keyword research tools (Ahrefs, Moz, SEMrush) that operate a keyword database of their own and therefore will give you vastly more keyword ideas.
For example, Ahrefs Keywords Explorer shows 5,570 keyword ideas for “content marketing.”
You can easily go bananas trying to sift through a keyword list of that size, so we have some great filtering options in place:
- Keyword difficulty;
- Search volume;
- Clicks per search;
- Cost per click;
- Return rate;
- Number of words in a keyword;
- Include/Exclude terms.
4. Study your niche well
The aforementioned keyword research strategies are extremely effective and provide an almost unlimited amount of keyword ideas. But at the same time, they kind of keep you “in the box.” Sometimes, just by studying your niche well (and adding a pinch of common sense), we can discover some great keywords that no one in your niche is targeting yet.
Here’s how to kickstart “out of the box” thinking:
- Get in the shoes of your potential customers: who they are and what bothers them;
- Talk with your existing customers, get to know them better, study the language they use;
- Be an active participant in all your niche communities and social networks.
For example, if you’re selling waterproof headphones, here are some of the “out of the box” keywords you might try targeting:
- how to survive a hard swim practice;
- how to make swim practice go by faster;
- what do you think about when swimming;
- best swimming style for long distance;
- reduce water resistance swimming.
People searching for these things are not necessarily looking to buy waterproof headphones, but they should be fairly easy to sell to. We recently wrote a pretty detailed article about this keyword research strategy.
We work for you
We at NETMonster.co.uk tried our best to distill everything we know about keyword research into a single, fairly brief guide. And our primary goal with it was to lay out a process that could be universally applicable to any website or industry.
Let our amazing team help you craft your SEO strategy today