Whether you’re working with an SEO agency or you’re going it alone, keyword research is one of the foundational elements of your search engine optimization strategy. Keyword research is the basis of everything else you’re going to do along the way, but it can feel overwhelming when you’re starting. 

The following are six things to know about keyword research and its relevance. 

1. What is Keyword Research?

When you’re doing keyword research, you’re going through a process to identify the search terms your target audience is entering into search engines. They’re using these terms to find websites, businesses, and content that are relevant to their need. You want to optimize your content so that you’re showing up in their relevant search engine results. 

Your keyword research is how you begin to build a strategy to help people find you. 

If you’re the top result in a search result on Google for a given keyword or phrase, you’ll get the most traffic around 49% of the time. 

The second result will usually get the most traffic 22% of the time. Once you get to the second page of the search result, you can plan on getting clicks less than 1% of the time. 

When you do keyword research, you’re not only looking for the keywords you should target, but you’re also gaining insight into what your targeted audience is really looking for. Not only can your keyword research inform your content and SEO strategies, but also your bigger overall marketing strategy. 

Your goal isn’t to create content shaped around what you want to tell people. It’s to create content based on what it is that people want to find or discover, which all starts with your keyword research. 

2. Elements of Researching Keywords

There are three primary things you should be looking at when you’re doing keyword research. 

First is relevance. Google ranks content on search engine results pages for relevance. This ties into search intent. Your content will rank only if it matches the needs of the person doing a search. As well as the relevance element, your content needs to provide the best information and be the best source available for the given search query. 

The next element is authority. If you’re seen as more authoritative, Google is going to give you more weight as a source. 

To become a source that’s authoritative, your site needs to be filled with helpful, quality content, and you need to earn backlinks and social signals. 

The third big element of keyword research is volume. Maybe you’re the top-ranking piece of content for a certain query, but no one searches for it. Therefore you’re getting no traffic from that ranking spot. Volume is measured by something called monthly search volume or MSV. MSV is simply the number of times all audiences are searching for the keyword per month. 

3. Discovery

Once you have an understanding of why you’re doing keyword research, the first phase of the process is typically keyword discovery. You can start by brainstorming ideas. This can be one of the hardest things for you if you aren’t sure what your keyword competition looks like. List out the main topics of your site, and then start writing down keywords that associate with those topics. 

Once you’ve done that, you can start to use tools to help you refine your keywords. 

4. Analyze

Once you’ve brainstormed potential keywords and narrowed them down with discovering tools, you can start to go through and analyze them so you’re able to choose the best ones

You’re going to have to gather some data to figure out the best keywords. One of the most important factors when you’re analyzing and deciding what keywords to target are to check the domain authority and the number of root domains that link to the keyword. 

At this point, you can start to look at your competition and who you’ll be trying to outrank. Your domain authority score is from 1 to 100. The higher your domain authority as a site, the more likely you’ll rank for the keywords you’re optimizing for. The linking root domains are the unique number of domains linking to a site. 

Other metrics you can use to analyze potential keywords include:

  • Search volume, which, as mentioned above, tells you the average number of times a keyword is being searched per month. 
  • You’ll want to analyze clicks. There might be a lot of people searching for something, but that doesn’t mean they’re clicking on the results or visiting the pages that rank well for that search. One reason something might have a high search volume but a low number of clicks is if Google answers the question directly in the search results. Also, keep in mind when a keyword has a lot of paid ads, it takes clicks away. 
  • Keyword difficulty is something that an SEO professional will often try to figure out manually. They look at a range of factors like the number of and quality of backlinks, domain rating, content length, relevance and freshness, search intent, branding, and other factors. 
  • Looking at cost-per-click or CPC can have some relevance. CPC is how much an advertiser is willing to pay for each click on an ad for a particular keyword. While it’s a metric for advertisers, it can actually help you focus on higher-value keywords. 

5. Trends

Something that’s overlooked in keyword research that can help you gain an advantage over your competition is to also look at trends. As you evaluate potential keywords, look at upward or downward trends over the past three to 12 months. 

6. Intent

Finally, you want to think about intent as you’re narrowing down your keywords in your research. If you’re a commercial website, meaning you offer products or services, you want keywords that appear to have the most commercial intent based on the websites that rank currently. 

By contrast, if you’re informational, such as a blog, you want keywords with informational intent. 

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