SEO Keywords - The Not So Secret Sauce of SEO
The buzzword of digital marketing - SEO keywords. There’s a reason why everybody is talking about them.
It’s a fact that identifying these word phrases allows you to optimize your website’s content. This enables you to match the intent of the person who is entering them in that search box. Then, you can effectively solve all pain points that led them to search in the first place.
And Google, Bing, Yandex, and all other search engines will reward your relevant content. The reward is higher positions in search results.
But, it’s not as easy as you may think.
What Are SEO Keywords?
SEO keywords are a 1:1 (or close) correlation to a search query a person does in search engines. Including them in your website’s content can increase its SERP visibility.
Getting on the first page of SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) is the final goal of SEO. But, to do that, you need to know what people write in the search engine. And you need to make it easy for them to find you. This is precisely what you use SEO keywords for:
To identify what people write in the search engine to find products/services like yours and make it easy for them to find you. This is done by optimizing your content for the search queries they use. By targeting keywords, you offer your website as one of the possible solutions for their query.
The higher your result is in SERPs, the higher the chance your website will be clicked instead of your competitor’s.
How to Find SEO Keywords
There are many ways to find SEO keywords. The tricky part is knowing what to do with them.
First things first, you need to understand that keywords are the foundation of all SEO efforts. Finding a bunch of keywords and then writing content for each on a separate page will not get you far.
Identifying which keywords to target and how to target them is a matter of thorough research. It covers discovering the keywords related to relevant search queries and targeting them with your content. The content you produce needs to match the intent the customer has when searching.
How to Identify the Best SEO Keywords
A quick disclaimer here - SEO keyword research is an ongoing process. Old keywords need to be assessed. Those difficult keywords that have lots of monthly searches can be replaced with more specific variants. Or, they can be augmented with LSI keywords (we’ll cover this in a bit).
Identifying what your competitors are targeting is a great way to start, but you need to go a step further. You need to identify what they have missed with their SEO effort. This will be a great way to penetrate the market.
SEO Keyword Research Tools
To find keywords, there are plenty of tools that use Google data and combine it with their metrics. They don’t just offer the keyword and monthly search volume (which is data freely distributed by Google). They give an estimate of how difficult it is to rank for that keyword too.
Each keyword research tool will give you a few metrics related to a keyword. The two most important for SEO are keyword difficulty and monthly search volume.
Keyword difficulty is different with every tool. But, what's the common practice is to measure the backlink portfolio of the top results for a given keyword. And this measurement is what makes the keyword difficulty metric.
Monthly search volume is the number of searches entered in the search engine for that particular keyword phrase.
With that out of the way, here are a few examples of tools that will help you with SEO keyword research.
You’ve probably heard of Moz. They have probably the most recognizable SEO tool out there, and keyword research is one of the things it offers.
But, the more interesting bit is that they invented the metrics Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA). Yes, the same metrics you’ve probably used to research your competitors are invented by these guys.
The way they are calculated is they take multiple factors into account but mostly rely on backlinks. To say DA and PA are arbitrary is an understatement. They sparked a whole new branch in black-hat SEO just to artificially boost the page’s domain authority with PBN link farms. But I digress.
Ahrefs is another tool you might have heard of. It offers backlink analysis, competitor analysis, and on-page audits. But, we are interested in Ahrefs’ keyword explorer tool. It is a great keyword research tool, not only for Google, but for YouTube, Bing, Baidu, Yandex, and more.
Their keyword difficulty is calculated by taking the backlink portfolios of the top 10 results for a given query.
My personal favorite, Serpstat is a pretty new tool on the market. I’ve been using it since 2017, and I must say, it has the "best bang for the buck". It’s like Ahrefs, as it offers backlink analysis, competitor analysis for both SEO and PPC, on-page audits, and a domain crawler for whole domain audits.
Neil Patel’s tool Ubersuggest is the cheapest of the bunch. It went into a subscription-based model recently after being completely free. For only $10/month, you can get in-depth data about keywords, domain ranks, and backlink portfolios.
Google Keyword Planner
The Google Keyword Planner is a free keyword research tool within Google Ads that offers real-time data from within Google. It also provides the keyword search volume. It includes PPC metrics too, but those don’t matter for SEO. If you compare the Google Keyword Planner data with any of the paid SEO tools, you will notice that the search volume is the same. The reality is they all use Google's search volume data - and they charge you for it. But I digress (again).
Now, even though it gives one of the two metrics that you need for keyword research, you can still have the data. Use Ahrefs’ free backlink checker for the top 3-10 results to see how many backlinks they have. Then, make an educated guess on how difficult it would be to rank for that keyword.
Bing Webmaster Console’s Keyword Research Tool
Microsoft’s alternative to Google’s Keyword Planner, the Keyword Research tool in Bing Webmaster Console, is a great way to do additional keyword research. And, unlike Google’s Keyword Planner, it provides actual search volume numbers. Not logarithmic traffic buckets that rounds-up search volumes.
WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool
WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool combines Google’s Keyword Planner with Bing’s Keyword Research tool into a single tool. It is pretty great when you want to leverage both search results of Google and Bing for your website’s SEO.
Once you select the preferred tool for your keyword research, you will end up with a list of keywords that you should target. But, as I mentioned before, you shouldn’t create pages for each of them - that is bad for SEO.
Why is it bad? You'll end up targeting variants of the same keyword on different pages, which leads to keyword cannibalization.
How to Do Keyword Grouping for SEO?
The best SEO practice is to group keywords by topic. All keywords that are closely related in meaning (question variants, singulars, and plurals) can go into one group.
If you are familiar with how Google Ads works, the same principle for grouping keywords by topic in an Ad Group applies for SEO too. The twist is you group keywords by topic for a single page.
This concept can be expanded with pillar posts. This is a concept of grouping several keyword groups under the same pillar. Then, you can use internal linking to connect all of them into a single pillar of content that covers a specific topic over multiple pages.
LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords are closely related keywords that search engines use to understand the content of a website.
They helped search engines win the battle against keyword stuffing. This notorious practice revolved around mentioning a single keyword multiple times and getting great ranks for it.
An example of how LSI works is the following: you’re writing an article about “digital marketing”. So, Google will scan your website to see if you have that keyword included in key parts of the page (which is covered in the next section). Then, it will proceed to look for LSI keywords that are related to digital marketing. This includes SEO, SEM, content marketing, social media marketing, etc.
In a nutshell, Google will scan your website against a list of words that are frequently occurring together to understand what it’s about.
The Key Areas to Insert Your Keywords
After you have your keyword research done and organized, it’s time to create the content that targets them.
Best practice dictates that you should put your main targeted keyword in the following:
- Title of the Page (Heading 1),
- Meta Description of the page,
- Meta Title of the page,
- URL string of the page (if the keyword is blue shoes, then the page URL should be /blue-shoes),
- Image tags (alt title and alt text),
- Image name (because it acts the same as a URL string),
- Anchor text in internal linking from other pages.
If you wonder what to do with the rest of the keywords from the group, here's the answer:
Insert keywords from the keyword group throughout the text. Use them in headings and answer them within 29 words to optimize for voice search.
If I talk from experience, proper initial keyword research results with somewhere between 2,000-6,000 keywords. eCommerce takes the proverbial cake, as the nature of an online shop equals lots and lots of keywords for each product.
Follow this guide to create a keyword research strategy - but if you need help, feel free to reach out!