In this post, I will outline a systematic Keyword Research guide you can use to generate a massive list of keywords you can rank high for on Google regardless of the nature of your website. As a note, remember what we indicated earlier: it is best to integrate a healthy mix of all types of keywords into your website, i.e. it is best not to concentrate on transactional keywords or head term keywords, but to use a healthy ratio of keywords in the four-keyword categories. That said, here is your systematic keyword research guide.
Step 1: Create a Spreadsheet and Brainstorm For Keyword Ideas
At this point, we are assuming you already have a subject/niche specific blog or website.
Note: If you do not have a niche specific blog or website, this resource by Stuart Walker, a top-earning online marketer will help you define your niche, while this resource by Pat Flynn, another top marketer will help you set up a blog/website in less than 4 minutes).
This part is important because, no matter how you look at it, the keyword research process always starts at understanding your niche, which helps you brainstorm a list of possible keyword ideas your target audience uses when searching for information online.
Once you understand your target audience and their plight, i.e. their most pressing queries, carve 20-30 minutes of your time, sit down at your desk and come up with a list of 10-30 keywords users searching for your website topic would possibly use to search for relative information.
How to Brainstorm a List of Keywords
At this point, you do not have to be specific; the idea here is to come up with a rough draft of relevant, popular, and frequently used keywords in your niche. If you cannot come up with a list of 30 keywords on the fly, you can use the Google Instant method to discover what users interested in your topic are searching for.
1: Use Google Instant and Google Suggestion: The Google instant method is easy and straight forward. Head over to Google.com and type in your seed keyword. For our example, we shall use SEO as our head term and use it to discover popular searches for that topic.
Once you get to Google, type in your preferred keyword topic and then type the letter A.
Then C, D….
The Google instant method, also known as the Alphabet Soup method lets you discover, in an alphabetical manner, popular phrases that users type into their search bars. You can use this method to come up with a rough list of keywords. For example, using our SEO keyword example, our list of possible keywords would be:
- SEO analysis
- SEO Audit
- SEO basis
- SEO best practices
- SEO checklist
- SEO checker, etcetera
Google suggest on the other hand to head over to Google, type your intended keyword, and once you get the result, look at the bottom of the Google result page for suggestions of possible keywords.
For instance, using our SEO keyword example, we would head to google.com, type the keyword, and look at the bottom of the page for suggestions.
Once you create your rough draft of keywords, plug them into your spreadsheet. You can use Microsoft Excel or Google Spreadsheet. The latter is better suited for keyword research because of its cloud nature (meaning you can access your keyword research data from any internet enabled smart device).
2: Use Synonyms: Another handy way to generate a massive list of keywords is by using synonyms. For instance, if we use SEO as our seed word, and head over to thesaurus.com and type “search engine optimization” because the topic does not have synonyms, the thesaurus will return a web result page that can give us more ideas on topics to cover.
For even better results, we can dissect the words “search engine optimization” by using the thesaurus to search for individual synonyms for the phrase. The idea behind using synonyms is to generate a list of alternative seed words users may use when searching for information relative to your keyword. Create a healthy list of keywords and place them on your spreadsheet. Once you have that, move on to the next step.
Step 2: Expand Your Keyword List
Once you have your generic keyword list, the next step is determining which keywords are worth the content and optimization effort. To determine that, you need to focus on your list, expand it, and identify easy to rank for keywords and content ideas.
Here, you can use keyword shitter.
Keyword Shitter: This is a not so nicely named free keyword research tool that produces long tail keyword ideas once you input a keyword phrase. What keyword shitter does is take your seed keyword, plug it into the ‘positive filter’ box, then press the ‘shit keywords!’ option, and download your list of keywords if it so pleases you. For instance, using a ‘keyword research’ spreadsheet created earlier, by plugging the keywords in Keyword Shitter, as shown in the figure below, we can get a ton of expanded ideas of topics we can create content around.
While this step may seem irrelevant, it is a key step in that it helps you create a sort of brain dump of searches potential clients and target audiences are making. While the list you create will not be your final keyword list, it will give you a firm understanding which key areas of your niche you should target.
Another way to drill down on your list is by using your website itself. If your website is already ranking for specific keyword phrases, you can use a keyword tool such as Google Analytics to hone in on related keywords or topics.
Step 3: Engage your ‘Spy’ Mojo
After expanding your keyword list and getting a glimpse of potential content you could create before you head out and spend the next several hours drafting a 2,500 word, highly helpful article, you want to do one thing: spy on other websites ranking for your intended keywords.
Brian Dean, the founder of backlinko, and one of the best SEO experts and online marketers around calls this hack, i.e. spying on your competition, the GKP (Google keyword planner) hack.
How to Use the GKP Hack
Competitor analysis allows you to know the possibilities of ranking for your intended keywords. Here is how to use the GKP method to spy on your competition.
First, equipped with your intended optimization keyword, head over to Google and type your intended keyword. For instance, if we use ‘keyword research’ as our seed keyword, our top 4 results would be as follows:
Side Note: As you can see from the image above, my SERP result page for the keywords ‘keyword research’ has additional data below each result. This is because I have installed the SEOQuake plugin. The SEOQuake plugin and the MOZBar Plugin are browser plugins that allow for the ‘viewing’ of vital SEO stats and parameters on the fly. Brian Dean has a super easy tutorial on how to install and use each of these SEO browser plugins.
If you do decide to use these tools, (they make competition analysis ‘on the fly’ a breeze), pay special attention to page rank, page authority (shown by the MOZBar plugin), referring domains (LD), and domain authority.
Once at the result page, open another browser tab and go to adwords.google.com. You will need a Google account to log in (a Gmail account). After logging into GKP, you want to click on the ‘search for new keywords using a phrase, website, or category’, plug in the URL of the competitor page, and ‘get ideas’
Note: The resulting default view will be ‘ad group ideas’. You want the keywords ideas tab. To get that, simply click on the keywords ideas option as shown in the image above. This nifty hack will allow you a glimpse of keywords your competitor is ranking for and their competition. If there are some keywords you think you can rank well for, grab them and add them to your spreadsheet.
Step 4: Use Your Keyword Research Tool to Focus Your List
The last three steps highlight how to come up with a mega list of possible keywords, analyze their competitiveness, analyze how easy it is to rank for them and determine how competing pages are using these keywords, as well as discover other low competition keywords the competition is neglecting. In this step, we shall concentrate on narrowing down your list of possible keywords as the last decision-making step before commencing the optimization process.
Using your massive list of keywords, (you surely must have a massive list of possible keywords by now), and the data from the competitor analyses we performed in step three, it is time to eliminate duplicate keywords phrases, keywords that have too little search volumes, and keywords that are too competitive. To do that, you need a capable keyword research tool.
The debate around which is the best SEO keyword tool is a pepper-hot one, and every marketer is quick to push this or that paid or free keyword research tool and terming it as the best.
The truth is, while paid keyword tools such as longtail pro, Jaaxy,WordTracker, etc provide in-depth search data and analysis if you have a ‘leaky pocket’ and are short on budget, free keyword research tool such as Google Keyword Planner (which we have used numerously) are up to the task.
Here is the thing; the role of a keyword research tool is to give you an estimate of the specific monthly searches keywords you intend to rank for has. The idea behind using a keyword research tool is to eliminate keywords that are too competitive, which have minimal traffic volumes, and that do not naturally fit into your blog content.
The idea here is to choose keywords that have healthy search volumes, and are low competition. These keywords meet the following criteria:
Awesome Keywords Are:
While this may be open for debate, good keywords meet the following criteria:
- Highly relevant: Good keywords, the ones you remain with at the end of the 4-step keyword research guide should be highly relevant. They should accurately describe the content of your articles because of a high bounce rate, i.e. the rate at which users leave your page after landing on it is yet another external ranking factor. By being specific, your keywords and their subsequent use ensure that users find answers to their pressing questions once they land on your page or content.
- Have a Healthy Search Volume: Good niche specific keywords have healthy search volumes. This is very important. Unless specific keywords have low volumes that build up to large traffic volumes when collated, it is futile to waste an infinite amount of time writing content for a keyword that receives 2-10 monthly searches.
- Low Difficulty/Competition: Keywords with a low difficulty rank rate have low authority, or poorly optimized pages or websites on the first page of Google. This makes it easier to, with a backlink strategy in place, de-throne them, and get your page, content, or website on the first page of Google. On the other hand, trying to rank for highly competitive keywords with high-quality authority pages on the first page of Google SERP will be an uphill task.
At this particular point, using the systematic keyword research process highlighted above, you should have a healthy mix of keywords ready for implementation and optimization on your website. Here is the thing though: although keywords are very important, simply finding the most profitable ones will not guarantee you easy ranking. What will guarantee you easy ranking is how well you optimize those keywords into your content and page. In the next section, we shall look at on-page optimization: how to use keywords to optimize your pages, content, and media.