If you’re just about to start optimising the different pages of your eCommerce website, or you’re coming up with content ideas for your company blog, one thing you’ve almost undoubtedly heard is that you need keywords. And to get keywords, you need keyword research.

This is where most people without any SEO expertise or a team at their back will get stuck - how exactly do you carry out keyword research, and how do you know you’re doing it right?

As SEOs at Adapt, we tackle keyword research on a daily basis, so here’s our breakdown of the basics of keyword research and how to make sure you’re leveraging it the best you can.

What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the process of gathering keyword ideas, terms and phrases that people use on search engines, in order to understand what topics users are searching for and what words in particular you should be using on your website and digital content.

On the surface, keyword research is just brainstorming the most important words and phrases for your website or content to use. From there, tools like Google Keyword Planner, Conductor Searchlight or SEMrush let you find out how many people are searching for those keywords, and whether there are other keywords they are searching for instead.

It may seem simple, but keyword research is a crucial step to get right when you’re looking to improve your website’s performance or your digital presence online.

Why is Keyword Research Important?

The true purpose of keyword research is to gain insight into what users are looking for and in what ways they are using search engines to find your website, content, or products. That insight can help define how you restructure your existing website, what digital content you create moving forward and how you create that content.

For example, knowing what keywords are most popular, shows you how to get your website in front of users who are looking for it. For your website to get any traffic from users searching on Google, then you’ll need to understand the keywords they’re using to search for your website.

Keyword research also gives you an indication of what your website is missing. If Google users are searching for chocolate ice cream, and your boutique ice cream brand doesn’t have a page on its website for chocolate ice cream, then it’s obvious what the next step for your website’s content is.

As well as this, performing keyword research can give you a sense of how you should be styling your content. When you’re creating a page about X, knowing whether users are asking “what is X” or “where can I buy X” can help determine what the most important information to put on the page is.

If you want to start leveraging your digital presence to generate customers, leads and revenue for your business, properly optimizing your website through keyword research is essential.

5 Tips for Better Keyword Research

Now that you’re getting down to doing keyword research, you need to know how to approach it. Once you’ve settled on a tool to use – Google Keyword Planner is the gold standard, but there are many benefits to other platforms such as SEMrush and Conductor Searchlight – it’s time to start searching for some keyword ideas.

Whatever your business and whatever tool you’re using, these are some of our top tips doing better keyword research.

1. Decide Your Scope Before You Research

Once you get stuck into keyword research, it can be easy to go off-topic and start staring at keywords without knowing what you’re looking for. You can end up spending hours trying to find the perfect keyword for a specific page, or just mindlessly grabbing every single term that seems relevant to your website.

Consider the purpose of your research - are you building a keyword profile to check your website’s performance, are you looking for content gaps in your market to capitalize on, or are you just looking for a handful of keywords to create a new page?

By determining the scope of your keyword research before you hop onto Google Keyword Planner, you can get a better sense of what keywords you actually need to find and at what point you have a good enough sample to move forward with your digital strategy.

2. Don’t Just Look at Monthly Searches – Intent is Key

When you’re deciding on a keyword to target on your website, naturally the first metric you look at is how many people are searching for it. However, that number doesn’t really matter if you’ve got no chance of getting your website onto Page 1 or 2 of Google, or if you’re page doesn’t give users what they’re looking for when they search.

This is where search intent comes in - understanding what it is users are actually looking for when they search using a keyword. Search intent is a topic that would probably benefit from its own guide, but as a basic rule you should check on Google what is actually ranking for a keyword before you decide to target the biggest keyword you can find.

There, you’ll find what Google currently considers to be best serving users for that keyword and it also shows you what your page is going to be competing with. If the content your planning doesn’t answer the search in a similar or better way than those other sites, you should probably consider a different keyword.

3. Look at The Competition

If you don’t know what keywords to look for, then the first place you can look is to see what your competition is ranking for. Tools like SEMrush and Conductor Searchlight can help you to quickly find out what keywords your competitors are ranking for, but Google Keyword Planner has an even simpler method.

Select “Start with a Website” on Google Keyword Planner and then just enter in your competitor’s website. You’ll then get a smorgasbord of keyword ideas based on what the page is already ranking for, alongside all the other info that keyword planner already provides you with.

And you don’t just have to stop at the domain name. You can search any individual page, down to category pages for types of shoes or a blog on how to look after your pets while working from home. It’s an easy method of diving right into the keywords you need for your content to be successful and get ahead of the competition.

4. Use Google Search, Seriously

It might seem obvious that to rank better on Google, you should look at Google. No doubt you’ve already been searching some keywords here and there to see whether your website comes up and what other websites are appearing.

But if you know where to look, there are a plethora of other information sources regarding keywords that users are searching which you can find just on Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Before you hit enter, actually take a look at Google Suggest and the keyword variants that it offers – it’s an excellent place to start when looking for those elusive long-tail keywords.

Once you’re looking at the results, take a look at the People Also Ask section, where Google is literally telling you what query keywords and long-tail terms people are actually using to search for the topic.

5(a). Once You’ve Got A Keyword, Target Variations

So, you’ve found the keyword or query that you want to use for your new page – great! However, there’s still an opportunity to leverage your content even better than using just that keyword.

From there, you should search for variations of that keyword to include on that same page. Targeting synonyms and semantically related keywords can help expand the number of keywords you for and improve the rankings of those related keywords.

Even if you’ve found the top keyword with the highest search volume, there may be a super-relevant long-tail version of it that’s perfect for your page. By scouting out the other options, you can target more keywords even more effectively.

5(b). And Queries and Questions...

Another kind of variation you can target are queries and questions. If you’re a coffee-roaster who delivers ground coffee to customers, you might think that your homepage which targets keywords like “best ground coffee” and “order ground coffee online” is right on the money. But a lot of users may also be searching “where can I buy ground coffee online” and “what is the best ground coffee” if they’re unsure of what to buy.

Just as with synonyms and related terms, targeting these query and question keywords can help you boost a page’s ranking performance on Google across a whole variety of terms. Ensuring your content answers these terms effectively will also help you appear in the elusive “People Also Ask” section, allowing your website to slip to the very top of Google SERPs.

Final Thoughts

In time, everyone finds their own methods, favourite tools and strategies for tackling keyword research. One thing that we all learn from doing keyword research, however, is that it is an ongoing process. Just as the keywords that are most popular change month to month, the keywords that you can and should be targeting are going to change overtime as well.

This means that the key to keyword research is to treat it as its name says, as research. As such, keyword research is a continual process of gathering information and insight to inform your strategy, not just something you do when you’re creating a new blog.

That’s why keeping on top of keyword research is the key to keeping on top of your SEO and ensuring that your business is making the most from Google Search.