When I plan a blog post, I like writing about something that has been occupying a good portion of my time in the past week(s). It gives me an excuse to spend an hour or two on researching better methods, which I can then share with you and of course bring into practice myself. Today’s topic: keyword research.

What is Keyword Research?

When you’re planning a SEO campaign, you want to be sure to target the right keywords. Ranking in Google for important keywords will greatly benefit your website, so it should be approached with care.

But which keywords are the right ones?

It’s not only about search volume, but also about relevance. In my opinion, these are the three elements that make up a good keyword:

  • Relevance to your website
  • Searcher intent
  • Search volume

If you sell umbrellas, you will want your page to rank for this particular keyword, because it is highly relevant. A keyword such as “buy umbrellas” signifies a clear searcher intent. Its search volume will be lower, but the chances of landing a sale when ranking for this keyword are greatly increased because the searcher obviously needs protection against the rain.

Here we see that, while search volume is of course not to be ignored, conversion rates will be higher with more specialized, low-volume keywords. These can go even deeper than something like “buy umbrellas”.

Short Tail vs. Long Tail Keywords

We’ve all heard of this showdown before, but what exactly does it mean for SEO? It’s all about searcher intent again. Let’s explain this using the umbrella example.

The keyword “umbrella” can be placed in the short tail category. It holds a very high search volume, but is also very general. Searchers who look for the keyword “umbrella” could be in the market for one. It could also be that they are simply interested in the history of the product, or need a picture of one for a school report. Other examples of short tail keywords could be “t-shirts”, “headphones” or “real estate”.

Now enter long tail keywords. I already introduced one with the “buy umbrellas” example. Long tail keywords offer a clearer search intent, but sacrifice search volume. These are usually short tail keywords combined with, e.g. purchase phrases, locations, attributes or brands. “Buy umbrellas” is long tail, but “yellow umbrella” as well or, very specialized, “buy cheap yellow umbrella Munich”.

Short tail keywords are the kings when it comes to search volume. Everybody seems to want to rank for them. What is often overlooked by beginners however, is the massive opportunity hidden in the long tail. Long tail keywords are generally easier to rank for because there is not so much competition. Ranking for a good volume of these will help you achieve the search traffic you wish for, and as an added bonus the traffic will be of higher value to you because of clear search intentions.

A few tool suites actually offer “keyword difficulty” features, which tell you how hard it is to rank for certain keywords. The suites I know of that offer this are SEMRush, Moz Pro and a hidden gem I was notified of this morning: Term Explorer.

Keyword Research Tools

The SEO landscape is littered with tools that make your life easier. Keyword research holds its fair share of options of course, so here is a short list of tools I enjoy using.

Google Keyword Planner

When researching your keywords, one tool in particular should always be listed first: Google Keyword Planner. It’s the official one and is actually very useful. It allows you to check batches of keywords, offers you suggestions and even lets you export your data as a CSV document. As a free tool, it’s hard to beat.

SEMRush

A paid-only option, SEMRush is packed with metrics. The tool allows you to not only see search volumes and CPC, it will also list the top ten ranking domains for a certain keyword. If you’d like a bit more insight into what your competitors are ranking for, SEMRush will tell you the amount of keywords in Google’s top 20, along with exact positions and targeted pages. There’s a lot more to this tool, so if you have the budget for it, I’d recommend you give it a shot.

Term Explorer

This little gem landed in my inbox this morning. Term Explorer is a keyword miner and analyzer. By inputting a couple of short tail keywords, it will go on a search and return up to 90.000 theme-relevant keywords, depending on the pricing you choose. I ran a couple of tests this morning, and the results were astonishingly good. The free version is limited to 1.000 returned keywords, and lets you run five analyses per day, which is not bad at all for a trial version.
Reading through this article, I am getting the feeling we might start ranking for umbrellas in a couple of weeks. Talking about relevancy…