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Keyword Research: The Ultimate Guide

What are keywords and search terms?

Keywords or search terms are words used in a search engine to perform a search.

When you get started optimizing your website, it is important to know what popular search terms are in your industry. The phrase ‘keyword’ can give you the wrong impression that it is one specific word. However, good, concrete search terms often consist of several words.

Therefore, in my view, the correct breakdown is:

• Keyword: a single word used to search;

• Search term: a combination of several keywords used to search.

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is the process of searching for and discovering search terms that people use to search for your product or service.

The ultimate goal of keyword research is to find search terms on which the website can advertise or be optimized to attract more visitors to the website.

Why is keyword research important?

Knowing the key search terms in your industry impacts all other aspects of search engine marketing. It is often the first step in a search engine marketing campaign.

Search terms tell you where your target group is and show you where you are dropping gaps or making progress.

But what many people are mistaken about is that keyword research is only effective for your SEM or SEO strategy.

Nowadays, you can uncover the entire market demand in a few hours with keyword research.

So are you doing keyword research just for SEO or SEM? Then it is a missed opportunity. Keyword research offers much more than just input for your online marketing strategy.

Good keyword research is essential for an SEO and SEM strategy. But what many people do not consider is that you can also use it to gain insight into what is going on in your customer’s mind. When you know what your target group wants at each step of the purchase process, you can:

• Use terms that your target audience also uses

• Answer questions that are relevant to your customer

• Purchase products for which there is measurable demand

• Adapt offline marketing based on market demand

In other words, keyword research is the market research of the 21st century.

What does keyword research yield?

Keyword Research For Search Engine Optimization [SEO]

To give you an idea of what keyword research gives you in terms of organic traffic, I have used a customer case.

We may use the data, but it is anonymized.

A little more background information: the website was set up four years ago as an information platform within the industry.

A number of factors have ensured that this site ranks successfully: think of content, link building and technical SEO. But the bottom line is that its success is due to good keyword research.

By adding new content every month specifically for low, medium and highly competitive search terms, this website can now be found on almost all search terms that are widely used in the industry.

The following image shows how one article increases from 0 to 4000+ visitors per month by selecting the right search terms and developing appropriate content for these searches.

Keyword Research For Search Engine Marketing [SEM]

The added value of keyword research for SEM lies in selecting search terms based on search intent and the customer journey. Each search can be divided into one of the four phases within the customer journey: See, Think, Do and Care.

As soon as you know which search terms are at the end of the funnel, you can use them in your Google Ads campaigns. In general, the further down the funnel the search is, the higher the conversion rate for that particular term.

Specific:

You can use these insights to create a good structure in your Google Ads account. This way, you spend the budget that is available as much as possible on search terms that are likely to yield the most returns. This makes the adjustment and optimization phase easier.

Way to find new search terms

Now that you know why keyword research is important to any organization, it is time to start researching.

That’s why I’m sharing several proven strategies that will help you find many new keywords.

Brainstorming

We start without complicated software, but simply with a blank piece of paper or Word file.

Imagine running an office supplies webshop. The right question to ask yourself is, “What topics are people looking for when looking for products that I offer?”.

Subjects that emerge from this are:

Note: these are not yet keywords. Later we will further elaborate on these topics to arrive at the correct search terms.

In the following steps, we will expand the list with possible search terms and topics.

Steal from Competitors

What search terms do your competitors rank on?

Your competitors are a perfect starting point to expand your list of search terms.

Here we start in Google. I type in ‘office furniture on Google.

When searching for the main topics, You can see the number of search terms on the search results page.

Once we click through the competitor’s site, there are a number of spots where we are certain to find good quality terms.

The menu often contains the most important landing pages. The companies that have done their research and have high Google rankings name their pages based on commonly used search terms.

Some of the pages that companies just cannot place in the menu but still require good internal links to score are placed at the website’s footer.

META keywords, although they no longer work for Google, I always check whether the competition has entered them. For example, on a silver platter, you will be offered which search terms this competitor focuses on with the website.

You can find this out by clicking the right mouse button and viewing the page source. The search terms behind <meta name =” keywords” are the search terms entered by the competitor.

The TF * IDF tool shows which keywords are used within a page. The above print screen is from SEObility’s free TF * IDF tool.

You enter a keyword in the tool. SEObility analyzes the first page of Google for this search term on keyword usage and shows how often the competition uses specific search terms.

At this stage of your keyword research, all you need to do is look for new search ideas on the horizontal axis.

Related searches

Another way to get new keyword ideas is to look at related searches in Google.

For this, we go back to Google, and we type the Keyword for which we want to receive suggestions.

To find the related searches, scroll all the way to the bottom of the search results page. These search terms can be found under the title: “Searches related to”

Is there an interesting search query? Further, you can search for related search terms related to this more specific search term.

For example, the following image shows the related searches for ‘office furniture outlet’.

Suggestions from Google and YouTube

It is an extension of the related searches but based on suggestions. You get all the search terms in which the exact search can literally be found.

We go back to Google and type in “Office furniture”. Immediately several suggestions appear for more specific subtopics of “office furniture”.

By supplementing the search with a specific letter of the alphabet or with an extra word, you get deeper-lying suggestions of search terms that start with the search term you enter.

Do you want to do this for all combinations of search terms? Then wait a while with that. There are various tools available that take this process off your hands, which I will discuss later in this blog.

For now, you must experience this process yourself so that you get a feel for the terms that are searched for within your industry.

Not enough with Google Suggestions? Then you can repeat this process on YouTube. YouTube is especially a good source for exploratory search behavior without commercial intent (See-phase keywords). Perfect keywords for good blogs and videos.

Forums

Forums are used daily to get answers to specific questions that your target audience has.

The input from these forums is often a question. Those questions that the target group asks online are precisely the questions we want to know.

Google is also the answering machine where your target group asks questions.

Searching for “forum” + search term will take you to popular forums dealing with the topic.

Google Search Console

Don’t just focus on new keyword ideas, but also take a good look at the keywords that your website is currently ranking well on.

We use Google Search Console for this. Go to search.google.com and select the correct property.

Under the Performance section, you can see the terms on which the website is currently ranking for. You can open this report by clicking on ‘Performance’ on the left or opening the report in the start screen.

Here you can, for example, search for well-performing search terms based on the number of clicks. This way, you know which terms are currently generating the most visitors to your website.

If you sort by impressions, you can see how many search terms are showing up, but they don’t necessarily get you a lot of clicks.

This information is worth gold. Google already sees you as relevant for this term, but you do not yet have the suitable content to rank in the top 3.

Just look at the impressions, clicks, and positions in the image below.

You can repeat this process for pages that score well and get a lot of clicks and impressions. I won’t go into it specifically in this article, but OutreachWarriors SEO specialists use this information to expand and further optimize the content of articles.

By clicking on the ‘Pages’ tab, you will overview the specific pages with many clicks and impressions.

15 Tools for Keyword Research (free and paid)

Before we start structuring the keywords, let me take you through the top 15 free and paid tools to find keywords.

No stress, you don’t have to use them all. Find out which tool works best for you. If you research without the help of one or more of the tools below, you will miss a lot of insights. 

In addition, the tools will make it easy for you to expand further the categories and inspiration you have gained in the previous phase. Because mentioning all the pros and cons in this blog exceeds the blog’s purpose, I will outline my main findings of the tools.

Google Keyword Planner / Keyword Planner (Free)

In recent years, Google has worked a lot on this tool, causing the tool to decline in output here and there. But today, the Google Keyword Planner is still one of the best free tools available.

Logical because the data you see comes directly from the search engine itself. This makes the data accurate and reliable.

Because the tool has mainly been optimized in recent years to help build Google Ads campaigns, the tool also has some limitations.

For example, keywords are often bundled with closely related search terms and combined into one search term. In addition, ‘Competition’ is a label that shows the competition within Google Ads, not for SEO.

That being said, the Google Keyword Planner is definitely a tool you can use to find new keywords.

SEMrush (paid)

SEMrush is one of the larger SEO tools that can help you with all aspects of search engine optimization.

The tool offers various options for finding new keywords, finding out search volumes, and analyzing the competition.

Will you be using SEMrush? Then take a look at the Magic Tool. This tool contains many functionalities to discover broad and specific new search terms based on the extensive filter options and research possibilities.

Ubersuggest (free & paid)

SEO expert Neil Patel develops this keyword tool. Do you not have a budget available for software? Then Ubersuggest is one of the better free variants to do your keyword research with.

In the free variant, it is possible to retrieve search volumes, competition, and CPCs.

In addition, you can get new ideas for other keywords and see the URLs of the competitors that you have to compete with.

Another great option within Ubersuggest is that it gives you inspiration for new topics. Via the ‘Content ideas,’ you will find various blog topics that have scored backlinks and social shares in the past.

Raven Tools (paid)

Are you a marketer, freelancer or do you work for an agency? Then you fall within the target group of Raven Tools.

We do not use the tool itself because the tool cannot compete with the tools SEMrush and Ahrefs in terms of database and functionalities, but I would like to mention it to complete the list.

The tool has more than just the functions to do keyword research. The keyword function is only one part of the tool. For example, it is possible to keep track of your positions, optimize your website, manage links, and as a marketing agency, you can prepare clear reports. All this for a reasonably friendly price.

Long Tail Pro (paid)

This was one of the first tools I used when I started with SEO.

To be honest, I no longer use the tool. I don’t use it anymore because the features are too little to the other free tools and paid tools that we use every day.

SE Ranking (paid)

Like many tools, this tool is used for a specific purpose, making it very strong on that part. SE Ranking is a rank tracker.

If you do SEO yourself and you want to monitor progress in positions, my advice is to use SE Ranking for position monitoring.

Within the tool, there is also a Keyword Explorer, where you can find new keywords. All keywords are displayed right away with important metrics, like relevance, search volume, CPC, competition level and KEI (keyword efficiency index).

Keyword Surfer (Free)

This tool is a free must-have for anyone involved in SEO. Many SEO’s still run on ‘Keywords Everywhere’, I switched to ‘Keyword Surfer’, the variant that provides more data for free and provides better insights.

In all kinds of other print screens within this blog, you can see the search volumes listed within the search window in Google. This is the work of Keyword Surfer: you immediately get the search volume of the term you are looking for in the country you have selected.

The tool also suggests keywords related to your typed search term and have a lot to do with the topic. Again with search volumes in the country you selected.

Keywordtool.io (free & paid)

Keywordtool.io has a free version and a paid version. The advantages of this tool are the insights it provides for the search terms from YouTube, Bing, Amazon, Instagram, and Twitter, but the search volumes are hidden in the free version.

With some tricks, you can find out these search volumes (for example, by exporting and then loading them in Google Keyword Planner), but then the tool loses its power.

The tool is actually very good at researching specific search queries. Once you import these terms into the Google Keyword Planner, Google does what it does best: bundle the search terms and merge closely related terms into one term. And that’s exactly what you don’t want in keyword research.

Ahrefs (paid)

This one should be at the top of your list as an SEO specialist. Are you serious about SEO? Then you must have this tool.

Using the tool for competitive analysis is explained earlier in the blog, but you can do a lot more with this tool.

As with the other tools, I will limit myself to the properties of the keyword functionality.

You can use this functionality to analyze competition, find search volumes, and get new keyword ideas.

The function we often use to run keyword research is the ‘Having same terms’ functionality. Here you can retrieve all searches, including volume metrics and other interesting metrics, including the entered search term.

We use the Ahrefs software ourselves on a daily basis. It is an enormously valuable tool from which you can gain various insights for keyword research.

Later in the blog, I will cover the ‘Keywords explorer’ feature in Ahrefs. But since we are still in the brainstorming phase, I now want to show two other features of Ahrefs.

To start, we enter the URL of a competitor that is currently ranking well. Pay close attention to whether the competitor’s website on the www. whether the non-www.-variant has been running. Copy this into the Ahrefs search field.

under the heading ‘Organic search terms’, you will find the terms on which the competitor is currently getting a lot of traffic. Then determine the information that you have just obtained from Search Console for your own website.

And Via “Top pages”, you will find the pages of the competitor that generate the most traffic from Google.

Note: Ahrefs is a tool with a lot of data, but the data is based on estimates. The visitor numbers will not literally correspond to reality but indicate the most important pages and search terms.

The ‘Content Gap’ function within Ahrefs tells you where your competitors rank, but you don’t. To use it, enter the URLs of one or more competitors and let Ahrefs know what your website is.

Answer the Public (free & paid)

Do you spend a lot of time working with SEO-friendly web texts? And do you use keywords to write content blogs? Then you must know this tool.

One of the properties of a good landing page is that the text answers the most important questions of the user. This also always works well in the ranking of your page.

Answer the Public gives you insight into these questions.

KWFinder (free & paid)

This tool has a free version, but if you are going to work with KWFinder, my advice is to take the paid version. In terms of price quality, this is a perfect tool to find search terms.

This tool is a lot cheaper than tools like Ahrefs or SEMRush. However, with Ahrefs or SEMRush, you can use it as a complete toolset for your SEO. However, if you are purely looking for a keyword research tool, I recommend looking at KWFinder.

KWFinder finds new keyword ideas and displays this in a well-organized dashboard. The tool works very intuitively, making it easy to understand and read even for a beginner.

MOZ (paid)

As with a number of other tools, MOZ is not limited to finding new search terms. It is a complete software with which you can do much more than just find new search terms.

The tool is paid but has a free trial version that gives you access to a large part of the functionalities for a certain period.

Google Trends (free)

Are you in a business where you have to deal with seasons? Then you need Google Trends to prioritize the tasks you are going to perform.

Search volumes displayed in the tools are based on monthly volumes (total Volume of last 12 months / 12 = average monthly search volume).

Do you sell Christmas lights? Then the Volume in December will be significantly higher than in January.

The blue line shows the demand for Christmas lights in December. During the corona crisis, more office chairs were searched. Do you think that has something to do with working from home?

Keyword Sheeter (Free & Paid)

Keyword Sheeter (also known as Keyword Shitter) is a tool that focuses on the long-tail search query.

This tool is very good at retrieving lengthy lists of search terms. Since the free version of the tool does not show search volumes or other forms of data, you have to use these lists in another tool to investigate what exactly the interesting search terms are within the list. You can also ‘buy’ the search volumes and the click prices so that they become visible in the tool.

Mergewords [Free]

This type of tool cannot be missing from the list, especially for SEM campaigns. This is a frequently used tool. But also, while doing keyword research for SEO, this tool can help you generate keyword lists.

The functionality of the tool is simple. You have three Keywords. The tool combines the words in all possible variations.

Long-tail vs Short Tail

An easy way to select search terms is to prioritize long-tail search terms. The competition on long-tail search terms is lower than on short-tail search terms, making the chance that you will rank in the top 3 of Google.

Choosing long-tail search terms is not always the right strategy. Short-tail search terms and long-tail search terms both have advantages and disadvantages.

But what exactly are long-tail search terms and short-tail search terms? A good example of this is shown in the following image.

What is a short tail Keyword?

The short-tail search terms are terms with high search volumes. These search terms are generally short because they are general and describe a broad subject, for example, the following terms:

• Men’s shoes

• Vacation home

• Backpack

• Bookcase

These terms are very competitive for several reasons. The terms are popular because they are searched for a lot. Scoring at position one on these types of terms creates a lot of traffic and entails a certain authority.

Another reason these terms are difficult in your strategy because the search terms are used consciously or unconsciously by many different websites. You can see that in the number of results that the exact short-tail term shows in Google.

What is a long tail Keyword?

Long-tail keywords are longer search terms, sometimes even search terms that consist of more than three keywords and are usually very specific. Phrases such as “industrial black bookcase” and “renting a holiday home in Australia” are examples of long-tail keywords. These terms don’t get much individual search volume (usually around 10-200 searches per month). But when you add them together, all of the long-tail search terms together are worth more than the short-tail search terms in your industry. And because they are less commonly searched for, long-tail terms are usually not very competitive.

Authority

The difficulty of ranking on a term largely depends on your authority. You have complete control over how your website is technically put together and in what condition the content is on your website.

Something that you have less control over is authority. Sites such as Bol.com, Amazon, Wikipedia or other big boys have such a lot of authority that you cannot match this web site-wide level.

A simple way to find out is to type the term in Google and see which sites rank. Are these big names? Then there is a good chance that the competition is fierce.

This method is not 100% foolproof. That is why I also want to highlight another way of determining the competition. We can do this based on PA / DA. These metrics give you an idea of ​​the authority of the websites and pages you want to compete with.

Since the Website SEO Checker tool is free, it is not always accurate, but in many cases, fine for this application.

Without going into exceptions and explanations too much, the following takeaways:

• High Volume represent fierce competition;

• The difference between 1 and 10 is less than between 10 and 20, 10 and 20 less than 20 and 30 and so on;

• Page authority (PA) says something about the competition at the page level;

• Domain Authority (DA) says something about the competition on a web site-wide level;

Elaborate the Keyword research

Researching relevant search terms is a continuous process. Still, I advise every entrepreneur and marketer to work out keyword research in a sheet at least once a year.

Start every time with the brainstorming phase to ensure you do not miss any strong search terms.

Do you do it very extensively in one go? Then that will save you double work in the future.

Super simple, but it is all you need.

Determine in the columns search volume, competition and CPC which tool you will use to find out. Every tool has different sources. If you start using different sources within one metric, your research will no longer be reliable.

Explanation of the columns: 

Category: Create clusters within your search terms so that you can filter properly in the total overview of your research.

Search volume: The average search volumes of the search terms, use the KeywordPlanner or another tool from the overview.

Competition: Here comes the competition of the search. Note: the competition from the KeywordPlanner does not say anything about the competition for SEO. This only applies to the SEM competition.

CPC: The average CPCs of the search terms, use the KeywordPlanner or another tool for this

Customer journey: Characterize all search terms with a volume of more than 100 with see, think, do or care.

Remarks: Additional matters you want to indicate. Tip: you come across search terms that are not yet interesting during the research but maybe later. Leave them, so you don’t ‘lose’ them.

Choose your search terms.

Okay, the keyword research is on. You have worked it out completely, and you are ready to get started with SEO or SEM. What criteria do you use to prioritize?

Expected CTR

What CTR do you expect for the search term? Google enriches the search results with all kinds of information. The more ‘peripheral matters’ are visible, the more distraction there is from the click.

For example, do you see a featured snippet where the answer to the search intent is given? Then the chance is smaller than people actually click through to one of the other websites.

Are you doing SEO for a search term where Google Search Ads, Google Shopping Ads, and a local pack is visible? Then your CTR will be lower than a search term with only organic results.

Competitive Analysis:

Choose your battles. Look carefully at who your competitors are for the search terms you select.

Are you just starting with SEO? Don’t go too far. First test with a term with little or no competition to get a feel for how Google reacts to the changes.

With Google Ads, you must know the math well with clear data. Send on ROAS or CPA and determine whether you can compete with the competition on these search terms based on these KPIs.

Search intent

Immerse yourself in the search intent of a search term. Effective search engine marketing is all about providing good, relevant answers at the right time.

You can divide every search into 4 phases, namely see, think, do and care.

At keyword level, we then arrive at this:

• See good sitting position.

• Think: adjustable height desk

• Do: Buy a height-adjustable desk.

• Care: Buy adjustable desk manual

Are you unsure about the commercial value of a search term? Look at the estimated CPC of a search term. High CPCs say something about the commercial value. Search terms that hardly cause conversions are turned off by advertisers in Google Ads, which results in a low CPC. It also works the other way around. For search terms with high conversion, a lot is offered. The top positions are worth a lot in that situation.

Trends in search behaviour

If you start optimizing your website for Christmas lights in terms of free search results in November, you are too late.

But advertising within the same category in February does not make much sense.

If you have a market where you are dealing with seasonal influences, do not focus blindly on search volumes. These are generally calculated based on dividing the annual Volume by 12.

The easiest way to look is to use Google Trends to check if you are in a market where search volumes differ throughout the year.

Bonus: Patterns

When it comes to predictability, we humans are just simple creatures. An SEO and SEM specialist can benefit from this. Specifically in three cases:

• Niches that renew annually (such as those of games or mobile phones)

• New emerging niches, where there is not much Volume at the moment

• Specific niches where you only have a small target group

By recognizing patterns from the past, you can predict the search behavior of the future. Or extend the properties of the search term to the entire range.

We speak of a pattern when three or more search terms contain the same properties.

The phone case market is a good example of this.

You can see that all searches are structured the same, namely [brand] [type] cover.

Let’s also test this at Samsung.

There are several deviations, but the trend is the same [brand] [type] case. You can do this with any brand, but you will see the same pattern.

You can use these patterns perfectly to make your SEO scalable.

 For the above pattern, you could perfectly make a product filter or layered navigation in which all combinations come to the fore.

You can also use the patterns in the search behaviour to improve user-friendliness. Do you know what characteristics your ideal customer is looking for? Then you can adjust the information to this in the content of your website.

To work

I have tried to keep the blog as practical as possible, so I hope you can get started with it right away. The purpose of the article is to provide an A to Z guide for keyword research. Have you experienced this? 

Please also let me know if you have not been able to do good qualitative research. Based on this feedback, I can further improve the blog.

Do you want to get started with SEO or SEM and have us carry out the keyword research? I am happy to tell you about the possibilities that OutreachWarriors offers.

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