Table of contents:
- Types of Keywords
- Finding the perfect Keywords
- Mapping keywords to your website
- How do I find good Keywords for SEO
- Competitor Keywords
- Evaluating the success of your Keywords
Unsure how you can get your business to appear where people are searching? Wondering why you always see your competitors ranking above you for services or products that you know are not as good as yours?
Then you need to read this blog on Keywords for SEO.
I share with you our tried and tested, eleven years in the making, keyword research method. This is one of over fifteen different stages of our SEO RECIPE. This RECIPE has allowed us to transform the online presence and success of hundreds of businesses.
Including one client who increased their organic revenue by 211.54% in December 2020 vs 2019.
Feel free to save this blog post to come back to at a later date, use the contents section to find the specific sections that are of interest to you or if you have any questions just drop me an email or a DM on LinkedIn.
I would also recommend you do not read this on an empty stomach as I mention pizza, A LOT.
1.1 Keyword Definition
In short, keywords, also known as phrases, when used throughout your website allow people to find your business when they ask a search engine a question or want to find out more information. In the industry, we often refer to them as queries.
For instance, if you want to find a recipe for pizza, you would most likely type “pizza recipes” into Google. The search engine would then show you the sites that it recommends for that topic, if you have the keyword “pizza recipe” on your site and have helpful content on your site around that search term then you will be able to appear for this search term.
An example of this is shown in the video clip below:
The traffic that you gain to your site as a result of these “keywords” (search terms) is “organic traffic”.
1.2 Keywords & Rankings
While they are over 200 different factors that go into ranking your website, an essential factor is keywords for SEO. They should not only dictate how your site is built, it should also assist in making sure your site is optimised to answer those queries that customers are searching for.
To explain the connection between keywords and rankings, it refers to your website’s page position within search results for a specific keyword search query. When a user searches for that specific keyword, your ranking web page will be one of the results that is listed for that keyword search. One website can rank for a lot of different keywords, as long as they are relevant.
The Search Engine Results Page (SERP) differs depending on the particular search query and the keyword usage. Most commonly you will see Shopping Ads, Paid Search Ads then Organic Ads. For searches that include local terminology, such as “near me” it is likely you will also be shown a Google Maps Listing below the Paid Search Ads.
Search results vary based on what Google has deemed relevant for that particular search keyword or phrase. In most cases, you will typically see Paid Search Ads in the header and sometimes in the footer of results. If you are performing a local search, you will see Google Maps listings directly below Paid Ad listings.
1.3 Keyword Search Volume
Putting it quite simply, keyword search volume refers to the volume (or number) of searches for a specific keyword over a specified time period. To give consistent results it is averaged over that time period to provide the overall volume. This data is then used specifically by marketers to learn more about the audience and their target demographic.
It is worthwhile mentioning that seasonality does affect keyword search volume. Obviously, some industries and products are more affected by seasonality; when the UK first went into Lockdown 1.0 you can see that the search for pizza recipe overtook pizza delivery for the first time. It then peaked again at Lockdown 2.0 & Lockdown 3.0.
Other search terms are not affected by seasonal or timeliness associated with them, and their search volume stays steady over time. Of course, it’s worth remembering that a keyword in one country or region may differ in another.
2. Types of Keywords:
- Generic (Short-tail keywords) are more general queries, for instance, if you were looking for shoes you would put in “shoes”. Once you are more aware of what it is that you want you will use longer-tail terms, such as “Nike shoes”.
- Shorter-tail keywords have a higher search volume but lower conversion rates.
- For small websites with a unique product/service, these longer tail keywords are your secret to success, especially if you are a newer website.
- Almost there keywords – those keywords that you are in position 11-50 for your branded terms.
2.1 Short-tail Keywords
This refers to those high volume keywords that are often between one and three words long.
For instance, back to pizza, the majority of these recommended results are short tail:
- Pizza hut
- Pizza express
- Pizza London
You can most often see these short-tail keywords when you begin typing into Google and it shows your similar searches. It uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to guess what it is that you are searching, this is discussed in more detail here.
These are often also called “head” keywords because they are generally the beginning of a search. For instance pizza. After you have learned more around this topic you will be able to look in more depth at these search terms, so for instance at this point you could be looking at “margherita pizza recipes for beginners” or “how to make good pizza at home”.
Short-tail (head) keywords have high search volume but they are highly competitive, meaning that they are very hard to rank for. Generally speaking in order to rank for those short-tail keywords you need a high domain authority score.
Therefore, we don’t recommend choosing these keywords if you have a new website. However, the good news is that these more generic keywords often have lower conversion intent. Meaning that although someone may click on the search engine result and go to the website they are unlikely to convert (make a purchase or fill out a form).
To make the most of your opportunities as a small or newer website we recommend discovering relevant “long-tail” keywords.
2.2 What are Longtail keywords?
Longtail keywords for SEO refer to those search terms that are most commonly longer than three words and are hyper-relevant to a specific topic. Some examples are:
- Is homemade pizza nicer than takeaway?
- How long does pizza dough take to make?
- Pizza restaurants in Lincoln, UK
Although these may appear to be too specific, these search terms have volume and they help to answer searchers queries. By answering these types of questions you are able to help potential customers, and it is also worth considering that people who are searching for these specific keywords have more buyer intent than those short-tail keywords.
The most common question I get at this point when I have explained this is, which one should I focus on? Unfortunately, I do not have a simple answer for that.
In an ideal world, you would aim to be ranking for both keywords however there are a lot of caveats to this. Longtail should be your main focus if you only have the capacity to focus on one area. As it is more likely to help you to rank for those more achievable and relevant keywords than those high volume and high competition keywords.
I do want to add at this point one of my pet peeves when it comes to keyword discoveries, a lot of third party tools and platforms list something referred to as “keyword difficulty”. I tend to ignore this in most scenarios as your relevancy to those keywords will be the deciding factor as the difficulty.
Again an example of this, if you are a pizza restaurant in Lincoln and you see that the keyword “flour delivered” is a trending keyword with little keyword difficulty so you decide to try to rank for it. Although your pizza restaurant may get fresh “flour delivered”, people who are searching for that key term will not have their search query answered by visiting your website. Therefore, although you could rank for the keyword, gaining those visits to your website will only increase your bounce rate and negatively affect consumer trust with your brand. The less relevancy a keyword is, the higher that keyword difficulty is, even if the advertised keyword difficulty is low.
The same can be said for the opposite angle. You could have a keyword that is branded as high keyword difficulty but if you find that the keyword in question is directly related to your product or service. It will be essential for you to be ranking for that keyword and if you follow our recommendations when it comes to SEO it is likely that you will rank for that keyword.
As mentioned above, at this point must consider the competition and the intent of the keywords that you are interested in. Long-tail keywords for SEO offer a better likelihood of attracting potential new customers. Not only are they easier to rank for but they make up roughly 70% of total web searches, and that 70% are more informed searchers.
So often at this stage I see businesses focus on short-tail keywords because they have higher volume. An example of this, “pizza restaurant” is searched around 12,000 each month, whereas “pizza restaurant near me” is searched approximately 6,600 times a month.
When deciding on the relevant keywords for your business you can often be blindsided by thinking that “pizza restaurant” is the best keyword to choose as it has higher search volume. However, as I often say, there are a few problems with this.
- There is a much higher volume of competition for “pizza restaurant” this could include people looking to open their own restaurant, it could be someone living in Scotland looking for a restaurant. Searchers using this keyword could have no interest in wanting your restaurant.
- The other issue is that the searcher has not got much intent. Whereas if they are searching for “near me” Google can interpret their location and make sure if you fall into that catchment area that you appear.
As long-term keywords are more specific they give you a much better chance of gaining the traffic from the search query and hopefully make a purchase. Those searching for short-tail keywords, if they do click on your site, are more likely to quickly leave your site. Skewing your metrics, as a digital marketing agency we are often asked about vanity metrics, this is something that we discuss in more detail here.
3. Finding the perfect keywords for SEO
Research, research, research. Keyword research is most effective when you use a combination of both manual efforts and software.
When it comes to the software automation available to you, there are a plethora of tools, some paid and some free of charge. Depending on your requirements I personally would recommend AHrefs or SEMRush, if you are doing it on a much smaller scale Google Keyword planner is free.
The manual section of keyword research is a really good starting point to refer to when you are finding your feet and potentially need some inspiration.
There are so many different entry points into looking into keywords for SEO that are relevant to your business or keywords that you would like to rank for. A couple of simple but effective ways include:
- Discussing with colleagues “what topics do people search for that are related to our business” make a list and consider them at a later date.
- One of my favourites that I have spoken about on multiple occasions, is when you have searched for your product or service, once you scroll to the bottom of the page you will see “searches related to (pizza)”.
- Not something I use myself but something a colleague of mine uses, Reddit. Search for a broad topic and then review the subreddits, the comments within these can often give you longer tail keywords. There is a free SEO tool that scans Reddit for words and phrases known as Keyworddit.
- A simple yet effective way is using Google’s AI to suggest keywords relevant to your searches, this is also known as Google suggest.
- Wikipedia, although not the most reliable source for information it is a great starting point to look at a mindmap of terms. If you put in your product or service it offers contents, see also’s and references. Again with the pizza example.
In our SEO RECIPE, we use a combination of methods that for the first time ever we are going to share with you. At the very beginning of this process we find the broadest search term that we can for the market that you are in.
Sticking with my pizza example.
Put that keyword into Ahrefs or SEMRush. This is an exploratory exercise to try to get the biggest volume term to explore the competitive landscape.
As you can see this gives us huge numbers of 301,000 monthly searches.
Then to inspire you and to think outside the box that sometimes you may get stuck in. Especially when it is your business that you constantly work on and think the keyword people are searching for is potentially too specific.
When you get to this point look at the keyword variations, all of these keywords account for 15.5 million in monthly searches. (Your specific industry keywords are highly unlikely to be on a similar level to this, don’t forget this is for pizza).
Click on the view all keywords, at this point simply try to understand those keywords with bigger volume, what kind of information the searcher is trying to find and see if you can answer those search queries.
Once you have done the above exercise you should be able to distance yourself from what you associate with keywords that should work for your business and find new opportunities.
4. Mapping keywords to your website
With our RECIPE we break keyword research into two sections:
- Finding keywords for SEO for the existing pages on the website
- Finding keywords for SEO to create new pages on the website
In this section, I will focus on finding keywords for the existing pages on the website. Focusing on how to review each page to discover the best keywords to target – based on search volume, relevance and competition.
Our keyword research process:
- Review existing pages on your website to identify the “Main Keyword” of every page
- Review existing pages on your website to identify the “Secondary Keywords” of every page. These keywords support the “Main Keyword” by adding contextual support as well as “long tail” searches to the page
- Review the top three Search Engine Results Page (SERP) results (in Google) for each of the “Main Keyword” to understand the type of content Google wants to rank for that query (i.e. searcher intent + content type)
- Review the DOFOLLOW referring domains of the top three SERP results (in Google) for each “Main Keyword”. This helps you to understand the competition for each query you want to rank for
- Analyse the results and prioritise accordingly
The most effective way to review existing pages on your website and the appropriate keyword is to use a piece of software such as SEMRush or AHRefs. Personally, I find that SEMRush provides the information in the easiest to understand format. There are free trials available from SEMRush and paid trials for AHRefs in which you can try to get as much information in a short period of time during the trials.
Click on the organic research header in the sidebar. Put in your website URL. In this instance I used Pizza Hut, as yet again I am sticking to the pizza example. Although I am more of a Papa John’s pizza but the keyword research told me that Pizza Hut had the highest volume so for example sake I thought it would provide more information.
Once you have done that you should get a new display similar to the one below, again please do appreciate that this example has incredibly high volume, it is unlikely your niche business or industry will be ranking for 37.3k keywords.
Once you have this view (example below), you can view all the data around the organic performance of your website. From the number of ranking keywords, the traffic from organic, the cost of that traffic if you were to have paid for it using paid ads and non-branded traffic (which refers to the amount of traffic that comes to the URL you are analysing from non-branded keywords). For instance, with Pizza Hut, this would be ranking for a keyword that does not include Pizza Hut, example being “vegan meat pizza” that they are currently ranking #1 for.
Then click on “View all ** organic keywords”. This will create a view like the one below. Then click on the “Export”, this will then create a pop-up, (depending on your version and whether you are using a paid or free account this may be limited), at this point whether you use Excel, Numbers or Google Sheets export the data as a CSV to import into your preferred format.
The reason I find SEMRush the best in this scenario is that it allows you to see the URL that is already ranking for a particular keyword. This helps you to objectively decide whether that is the most appropriate page for the keyword.
Once you have downloaded the data and imported it into your spreadsheet of choice, now is the time to analyse the data and manipulate it to find the information that you need to quantify the correct keywords.
Here is the best bit, by manipulating the data from SEMRush you can look at new opportunities. We have created a template sheet that you can download here.
Using this sheet with the downloaded data from SEMRush you can copy and paste the relevant columns from SEMRush data to form a process.
First, cleanse the data from the download from SEMRush, the categories that you need to keep are:
- Position (rename to Ranking)
In the template that we have shared with you, you will see the following categories:
- Priority (ignore this for now)
- Primary Keyword
- Secondary Keywords.
In the SEMRush data, organise the URLs to show you the same URLs next to each other. For example, it should look like this.
This allows you to decide on the Primary Keywords for SEO that you want to rank that particular page for. As you can see from the above example, the URL https://www.pizzahut.co.uk/speed-guarantee/ could rank for 77 different keywords. Use this to choose your primary keyword. As you can see this they are in position 1-75 for this one page. In most instances, you will pick the keyword with the most relevance and highest keyword volume. In this example, the main keyword would be “pizza hut delivery time” with a volume of 480.
Now you need to transfer this data across to our Keyword Research Template. First, copy and paste the URL, then the primary keyword for that URL, as decided above. Do the same with the Volume of the keyword and the Ranking.
Then go through all the other keywords for the same URL to determine which should be used for the secondary keywords for that specific page. Again this example has a high number, it is unlikely that yours will have this many competing keywords for a single page.
In the below example, you can see how I have done this for this example. As this page originally had 77 keywords for SEO I have narrowed it down to six for this blog, however when you are doing this yourself, I recommend anywhere between 1-4 secondary keywords.
Now do this for every URL that you have found from the SEMRush data. You may find that some keywords that SEMRush is telling you the page is ranking for is not actually relevant, in these instances you need to do further exploratory research, which will be covered in the next section.
Once you have done this, go back to your website and cross-check the URL’s that you have done so far, it is likely that you will have pages that are not ranking for any keywords. These pages need to go through the same process
5. How do I find good keywords for SEO?
I often get asked this question, and if you have found that the data SEMRush has for your pages is not accurate or that you have a lot of pages on your website that are not ranking, this is the next step of your keyword research.
So, for instance, if Pizza Hut had the URL https://www.pizzahut.co.uk/our-recipe (which they don’t, this is made up purely for this exercise). You would need to go back to your preferred tool to do research around “pizza recipe”, this would help you to understand the keyword trend around this topic.
So this time to find good keywords for SEO, you need to use the Keyword Overview, type in some keywords that you think are relevant to the specific page, in this instance, it would be things like “pizza recipes, pizza hut recipe” etc. The result will then give you the keyword, the volume and more information.
Use this information to add more detail to your keyword research. So in this instance the “Main Keyword” would be “Pizza Hut Recipe” which has a volume of 210, secondary keywords can then be found in “Related Keywords” section, such as “pizza hut dough recipe, pizza hut sauce recipe”.
Then repeat this for every page on your website that doesn’t currently have a keyword or if the keyword from SEMRush is not relevant.
It should look like this.
6. Competitor Keywords
The next stage, once we have decided on the keywords for SEO that we are assigning to the specific pages on your website, is learning what those pages are currently doing to be in the first, second and third position.
This is where we look at your competitors to understand how you can implement tactics that have got those websites to the top three SERP’s for your chosen keywords.
So, go to Google, type in your chosen keyword and open a new tab for the top three results. Then copy those top three results into the relevant column “Google Result for Main KW”. Once you have pasted into the correct cell, decide what the content type of that page is. We have data validated the most common content types that we come across, these are:
- Amazon Product Page – this is the exact product page on Amazon, not a category so is more common with specific eCommerce products
- Blog Category – this refers to a category of content on a blog, for instance, this could be an entire blog category of Recipes, not just a single recipe
- Blog Post – a page dedicated to a piece of content, this is where you would find a dedicated recipe
- Citation Site – this refers to the likes of directories that are listing information about a particular location
- Homepage – self-explanatory, the homepage of a website, the domain is the exact URL
- Lead Generation – a form catcher on your website, where the entire page is dedicated to gaining a lead
- Local Lander – this is likely to be a page on your website that is specific to a certain location, for instance, it could be the Pizza Hut Lincoln webpage
- Product Category – again this refers to an eCommerce website, where all the products within a certain category are listed
- Product Page – this is the specific product page within a product category, the user can buy the product from this webpage
- Resource Guide – if you are providing a “how-to” guide this is the most common format of a guide
- Review Site – this is most commonly used when working with the hospitality sector, with sites like “lonely planet” & “trip advisor”
- Site Info – this refers to those pages on your website where you are giving information about your business, such as about us pages
- YouTube Video – self-explanatory, but again is common with how-to videos
- Pinterest Page – social media pages, these are common with home improvements and recipes
- Wikipedia – the open-collaborative online encyclopedia, most often ranking with exploratory keywords
- Facebook Page – social media pages do sometimes rank higher than websites depending on the brands
- Instagram Page – less prominent on SERPs, some industries and brands do have well optimised pages though
- Video Page – an alternative to YouTube Videos or videos embedded into your website
Once you have confirmed the content type for the page in question you then need to understand some of the technical elements of their organic approach.
Open up Ahrefs, enter the URL for the first Google result for your chosen keyword. Then use the Site Explorer tab at the top.
Once you have something that looks like the above, you need to click on the left-hand navigation, click on the “Referring domains” (RD) link.
That should look similar to the above.
Once AHRefs has linked to that new page, you should have a page that looks like this:
You only want to look at the DOFOLLOW links, so click on that drop down in the Link Type, now you can see that there are 105 DOFOLLOW RD.
The reason we want this data is to understand if a particular site has a lot more than your site. Links are also a contributing factor to the ranking of a particular site and this can help to understand the opportunities associated with your chosen keywords for SEO. Whether they are dominated with a lot of RD’s, which if they are, you should take a marketing approach to gain a similar amount of links to hope to be ranked in that position.
Next, we need to find out the Link Velocity of that particular page.
The link velocity refers to the number of new links that any given page gains on an average monthly basis over a year. This helps us to understand if a page is aggressively gaining a high number of new links on a monthly basis, whether they are stagnant, which presents an opportunity to take a bigger market share, or whether they have lost links.
To work out the Link Velocity, back on the “Site Explorer” section of AHRefs, look specifically at the RD. It will default to “All time” data.
You want to just look at the data of “One year”, this should then look like the image below.
Once you have got this image, you will be able to hover over it to see the exact numbers. Hover over the highest peak on the graph to the right, in this example, this number is 181. Then do the same thing at the other end of the graph, which again in this example is 144. Now do a simple equation and take the second number away from the first number. In this example that is 181-144 = 37. This is the number of links within a 12 month period. Then divide this by the 12 months to work out the monthly number of links. For the domain in this example, this is 3.08. I recommend rounding down, this then shows the link velocity for that given site.
Now that you have done this for the first result, do the same task again for the second and third result.
Your sheet should now look something like this.
Understanding the competitor keywords is helpful when it comes to the on-page optimisation of your website and looking into the content that you are planning to use, as well as the links that your site may need to be on page 1.
7. Evaluating the success of your keywords for SEO
By this point, you should have all the pages, all the keywords for SEO that you want to use and the competitor pages. Now you need to update the content on the page using the chosen keywords, I cannot reiterate the importance of NOT keyword stuffing the on-page content.
There are so many factors that need to be taken into consideration when you are optimising your on-page content and the importance of correctly including your chosen keywords.
Once you have, correctly, optimised your website with your keywords, you can use multiple tools to track their success.
We have created an internal dashboard that we share our clients in when we begin working on their campaign. This allows us to illustrate Google Change as well as prioritise those all-important keywords. However, some alternatives that offer both free and paid keyword trackings are:
- Advanced Web Ranking
If you do not have the additional access to any of the above platforms, obviously you can use a back to basics manual approach. Choose the top 10 or 20 keywords and monthly you can put those keywords into Google and see which position you appear. This is not always 100% accurate or reliable but it can help to provide a rough estimate as to your keyword ranking improvements.
Keyword research is one of the most important elements of your SEO strategy. Ranking for relevant keywords for SEO for your business that drive traffic and ultimately business to your site.
Understanding how your potential customers’ search is essential to inform your marketing decisions, from writing blog posts to social media content.
Following this thorough keyword research process, you will be able to use some of the top industry standards to put together an informed SEO strategy. If you complete your keyword research and find that using those keywords for SEO in your marketing is not having the desired results feel free to get in touch with me or any of the team.
You have made it to the end of quite possibly the longest and most thorough keyword research blog that has ever existed so if you haven’t already I think you should treat yourself to a pizza!
Free Website Audit
Let's get started
What our client say...
“Richard and his team took a lot of time out of his day to come and visit us, see our products, see what we’re about and understand our industry. The results, they speak for themselves really.”
CEO & Founder
1 Stop Spas