How to do keyword research for SEO

Feb 16th, 2024

Keyword research is vital to a successful organic search strategy because it allows you to zero in on the things that really matter to your brand. It lets you know which areas are worth looking into and which aren’t based on what the public are searching for. Not only can this give you insights into the prioritisation of different content topics, it can also help your brand to advance by letting you know what products and services your potential customers are looking for.

Of course, keyword research is just one of many SEO methodologies that can enhance your marketing efforts, but it’s one that can have a big impact on your success in every aspect of your strategy.

The primary reason most businesses do keyword research is to find out which keywords they need to be targeting in the content on their website in order to attract relevant traffic from their target audience. However, keyword research for content doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach if you intend to do it well. In fact, there are three different avenues to consider. These are:

  • Keyword research for blog posts
  • Keyword research for local SEO
  • Keyword research for commercial pages

By tailoring your approach for each of these different areas, you’ll stand a better chance of doing keyword research that has a real impact on your overall keyword strategy.

Depending on your business’s needs, there may be variation in the balance between each of the three areas. For example, if you’re a small local business, you may wish to weigh your efforts towards local SEO to make sure the right people are finding you in search. Alternatively, if you offer services for which industry knowledge is key, then offering educational blog posts can be a way to reel in customers and prove to them how helpful your business can be.

In each of the three areas of keyword research detailed below, you’ll need to think about two key metrics: search volume and competition difficulty. A high search volume means that lots of people are searching for that term. High competition difficulty means it’ll be hard to rank for the term organically – which is often a consequence of it being a sought after term with high search volume.

The last thing you’ll need to do is assess the current performance of your site. That way, you won’t have to waste time trying to optimise for terms you’re already seeing success with. Tools like AWR Cloud and AHRefs can be useful to look at your current performance, allowing you to make better decisions for your marketing strategy.

How to do keyword research for blog posts

If your marketing strategy involves the creation of blog posts, then it’s fair to say that you’re trying to provide information to readers – or in other words, to fulfil an informational search intent. This is a great way to attract traffic from those who aren’t necessarily looking to buy a product or service, but want to learn more about related topics. Provide helpful answers, and you can build brand awareness, prove your business’s authority within the industry and display all the expertise you have to offer – thus fulfilling Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines.

When doing keyword research, you need to think about what your potential customers might be searching for. If they want answers, chances are they’ll be searching for questions – which is a great place to start.

Some keyword research tools, such as SEMRush’s Keyword Magic tool, allow you to filter by questions, meaning that your keyword research will find only queries that begin with question words such as ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’ and ‘why’.

Begin by searching for a key product or service you offer, and narrow down the search to questions. Pick out the most relevant searches – don’t forget to Google them yourself so you can see what the competition looks like – and create engaging longform content on that subject to provide value to readers.

Don’t forget to think about the terms your customers will actually use. Depending on your customer profile, using simple, layperson’s terms rather than jargon may be the better option. This is especially important with informational content, as your readers are looking to learn more about the topic, so they might not know the proper terms to use.

How to do keyword research for local SEO

If your brand serves a local area, then optimising pages for locally relevant terms is a good idea. Keyword research for local SEO is about looking at relevance in 3D as opposed to 2D.

What does that mean? Well, usually you’d look at relevance in two dimensions: what’s relevant to your target audience and what’s relevant to your product or service offering. In local SEO, a third dimension is added: geographic location.

For example, the term ‘access equipment’ might be relevant if you hire out supplies for working at height. To improve on that, you might also target queries such as ‘scaffolding platform equipment’ and ‘telescopic ladders’. But to hone those queries to target your local area where you do all your business, you could target ‘telescopic ladders liverpool’ or ‘scaffolding platform equipment manchester’.

As these longer keywords are more specific due to the inclusion of a location, the chances are they’ll have lower competition and may be easier to rank for, which is particularly useful if you’re a new company looking to get a foothold in the market.

Targeting these keywords doesn’t necessarily mean that searchers have to type ‘telescopic ladders liverpool’ into the search bar to get to you. Google search will typically use location services to identify where the searcher is and tailor the results to that location where relevant. So if you stood in Trafalgar Square and searched for ‘bakeries’, you’d likely see local results popping up in location-based SERP features even though you haven’t specified your location in the search query.

But what if you’re a nationwide business that has locations all over the country? Well, you can optimise for specific locations using location pages on your website which should let users know the opening times, parking options, facilities, products and services available at each branch. For other pages that are less location-specific, such as the home page, you could target terms that include the modifiers ‘near me’, ‘in my area’ and similar phrases.

Keyword research tools like Google’s Keyword Planner can be very helpful for this, but so can your search bar. Type in a relevant keyword phrase such as ‘telescopic ladders liverpool’ and scroll down until you find the related searches feature. These suggested similar searches may be good queries for you to target. The same goes for the autocomplete suggestions in the search bar itself.

How to do keyword research for commercial pages

This third type of keyword research applies to the vast majority of brands, but it’s most important for ecommerce and lead gen sites. If you want to attract customers who are ready to buy, whether directly from the site or via callback, you’ll need commercial pages.

Commercial pages are those that detail your product or service offerings and usually involve some sort of call to action to either make a purchase or take steps in that direction. Although they can be helpful to people who are looking to learn more about a generic product or service, they’re of more use to people who want to buy or want to learn about the offering of your specific brand. This is generally referred to as a transactional intent.

Therefore, instead of searching for ‘how to use a telescopic ladder’, your customers might type in ‘telescopic ladders for hire’. Branded searches that include your business’s name often fall into this category as users are searching specifically for your brand, but they might also search for brands that you sell. For example, a hardware shop might do well to target queries relating to specific brands of screwdrivers or hand tools, as well as queries that mention the name of the shop itself.

Your usual keyword research tools will be helpful when carrying out keyword research for commercial pages, but it’s also a good idea to do competitor keyword research to see what keywords your competitors are targeting. To do this, you can use Ahrefs to look up a competitor’s domain, then use the top pages report to see which are their best performing pages. The keywords those pages are ranking for will be listed, and you can then decide whether you’d like to target those keywords and get inspiration on how to do so from the techniques your competitors are using.

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